During one of my many scholarly pursuits, I recall reading a medical text outlining a test used to weed out sociopaths: A woman meets the man of her dreams at her mother’s funeral, but has to leave before they can exchange information. How does she find him? If the patient reasons that the most expedient way back to the man would be for the woman to kill her father and hope he shows up at that funeral as well, alarm bells start ringing. So there you are, all the highly scientific primer you need to prepare for what sounds like a rather unorthodox Scarlett Johansson vehicle.
Deadline reports that Johansson has signed on to star in The Psychopath Test, a film adapted from the nonfiction book of the same name. Written by Jon Ronson and released in 2011, The Psychopath Test tunnels into the complex world of the mental-health industry, investigating the medical and cultural factors that sanction some people as “mentally unstable” along the way. The book (and, one can assume, the film will do the same) focuses on the time-tested trope of the suave psychopath, the buttoned-up devil waiting for the right time to strike. Your Norman Bates, your Patrick Batemans, what have you.
Several factors contribute to this film’s wild-card status. Johansson should be able to handle herself no problem; she spent most of last year out of her head. But stringing together a plot from a nonfiction work is always tricky business, as evidenced by the scattershot adaptation of another Ronson book, The Men Who Stare At Goats. The director attached to the project, Jay Roach, complicates matters as well. His filmography has been frightfully inconsistent, vacillating between painfully broad studio comedies (Meet the Fockers, Dinner for Schmucks, The Campaign) and weightier true-life stories (HBO’s Game Change, the upcoming Dalton Trumbo biopic Trumbo). Add to that a constantly shifting public perception of mental health, and this project begins to take the shape of a big ol’ question mark.
One involved party inspires hope, however: Kristin Gore will draw up the script for this thriller. She—who, it bears mentioning, is the daughter of former United States Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper—contributed uncredited work to Her and Foxcatcher. Just like a Gore, too. Hard on character development, soft on world-building.