Spike Jonze “Her” | A VoicesFILM Review
I didn’t see that ending coming.
I have just seen Spike Jonze latest film, “Her”. It floored me. This
isn’t what I expected at all. You watch the fluffy and attractive
trailer and think:
“Ahhhh. A new and interesting
sweet love story.”
Listen. Spike Jonze wouldn’t
waste his time bringing you a nice little love story. This film is
on par with the brilliant “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless
Mind” from Michael Kondry & Charlie Kaufman.
That film is still
jacking me up and I saw it 10 years ago. Saying this reminds me of
that is a compliment of the highest order.
I’ll give you a bit of a set up if you haven’t
gotten it from the trailers or spoiler articles (reviews) out there
already. Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix
I knew he wasn’t going anywhere) lives in the future. Computers are
part of our everyday lives. No. Really part of our everyday lives.
Fully integrated in. He is separated from his wife for reasons we are not
completely aware of in the beginning and has become a bit
anti-social. He sees an add for a new artificial intelligence
operating system that he purchases. You can communicate with this
computer via an ear piece, and the computer can see through a
camera in its notepad like remote. He sets it up as a female and bang, she (the
voice of Scarlett
Johansson is born. They speak He asks her name, she
chooses Samantha. She learns and evolves through experience. They
become friends fast, and occupy each other’s lives. He can speak
with her anywhere he goes, and he does. Walks through the city, at
work, everywhere. Because she is artificially intelligent, she has
a personality, a sense of humor, can be hurt if spoken to
harshly…she is a being, a being with out a body, but a being all
the same. Simply, she is a digital being.
JOAQUIN: As the film
moves along, we get to see Joaquin back in his element acting
again, effortlessly playing this quiet, sweet and sensitive
character. As he has done so skillfully in the past time and again,
he embodies the character of Theodore naturally and gives him a
vulnerability that’s tangible and authentic. He delivers the
dialogue as if they are actual thoughts and words of his own.
Joaquin Phoenix is a mesmerizing and dedicated actor, one of the
best in the business. Period. Personally, I’m glad to see Joaquin
up on the silver screen again where he proves yet again how
completely gifted he is.
SCARLETT. She delivers a heartfelt,
emotional & multi-layered performance as Samantha that also,
more often then not, feels real. The two of these talents working
together bring this script and film to life for us. It feels like
you are watching a relationship unfold in front of you. Scarlett is
limited to verbally conveying her performance. She does a great job
in my opinion in a challenging role. Her character…how do I
say…is dynamic. Never idle, she loves being alive, so to speak,
but she has to convey a pretty wide range of emotion through her
voice…and her and Joaquin pull this off fantastically together,
their chemistry is evident immediately.
AMY: Amy Adams plays Theodore’s friend Amy.
Amy also has an AI OS that she has
developed a close bond with. You can’t touch Amy Adamns. Probably
should have realized that as soon as we first saw her with Leonardo
DiCaprio in “Catch Me If You Can”. One moment she is a sex pot in
“American Hustle“. The second you see
her walk into that film, it’s an Amy Adams that you’ve never seen
before. Sexually brave, smart and confident, strong and beautiful.
Then you see her enter this film,beautiful, yet frumpy and
disheveled. It’s the fact that it’s the same actress, and that each
character feels real and honest just proves how far she has come in
developing her craft. She was by far my favorite aspect of “Man Of
Steel”. She just won the Golden Globe for her work in Hustle last
night, and I’m not surprised one bit. This role is smaller, yet
integral to the story, and she gives a subtle and thoughtful
Bravo to them all.
Now, having an AI OS &
developing a close emotional bond with it isn’t unnatural in the
future apparently. When Theodore is asked by his boss(Chris
Pratt…good to see this guy breaking out of the Park) if he is
seeing anyone so they can all double date…Theodore responds that
he is dating his AI OS, and without missing a beat Pratt says…
“Great. We should all go out.”
It’s little moments like that, that
are core to the film feeling as natural as it does. That you accept
the premise is not by chance, the screenplay was carefully written
by Spike Jonze…he just received a Golden Globe for it a few
nights back as I write this and for good reason. It’s a smart film,
and it works well. But it’s not just that. You care about these
characters and believe them. And in them. The difficultys that
arise because of the physical limits of their relationship begin to
take their toll on both of the characters, and they try a few
different ways to extend their connection into the physical world.
It’s at this point that I was uncomfortable. Not because of what
was on the screen, but because I wanted to see the love thrive and
was aware that this was becoming painful for them both. That’s when
I knew I had invested in them. To pull that off, with a premise
like this…isn’t easy to do. But you’re not thinking that when
watching, you’re smiling and happily taking the ride with Theodore
and Samantha. It’s successful as a film due to both the
performances and to the brilliant, and now award-winning screenplay
by Spike Jonze. I had the sense that they were all very proud to be
working on it.
And when this double date I mentioned before does
happen, it also shines a light on how awkward acting with a voice
that isn’t really there can be with the wrong actors…because when
it’s just Scarlett and Joaquin, you’re right there with
them…buying every minute of it. Or when you overhear Amy talking
to hers, it’s like listening to a phone call hapoen you’re not
supposed to be listening to. But it’s not as natural for everyone
else in this film, but we don’t get caught up in that often.
There’s a scene that jumps out at me. Theodore spends his downtime
playing this videogame from the future, where a 3-dimensional area
opens I’m front of him and he controls a character who is trying to
find his way back to his space ship after being lost in some world.
Theo isn’t very good at this game we see. Then him and Samantha
play together and they start dominating. They get to a point where
they meet a new character that will help them in their journey,
this little teddy bear looking thing. This thing stares at Theo,
Theo and Samantha discuss what to do next, Theo looks at this teddy
bear and says
“hi little fella.”
The teddy bear character responds
This is Spike Jonze’s voice, it’s this odd
moment…and it’s so funny. The film has little details like that
sprinkled throughout. You probably think you can predict a lot
about a story like this. I did. And as it begins and you cross the
30 minute marker you think you see where it’s headed. But you most
likely don’t. It’s a love story, I’m not saying its a happy story,
I’m saying its a love story. And with that at its core…it never
loses sight of its own purpose. I’m trying to be vague.
confidently told and realized. It swallows you up immediately once
the film opens and drops you right into a fully realized world.
This is fine, fine storytelling at work here. Well written &
thought out to a tee. Executed perfectly. It’s a wonderful little
story that delivers an emotional poignant lesson to its audience by
the time it finishes. There are so many little treasures in the
film, little instances of imagination and depth, it struck many
emotional cords for me. “Her” is a gem of a film , and the best
part is that it never compromises itself or sells itself short. It
just gets smarter and smarter as it goes on, before you know it,
you’re not only being entertained, your watching a profound
statement being made. Imagine that the film, “Her”, was a journey.
A car ride. You get in the car and begin this long & scenic car
ride thinking you’re headed to the mountains. It is beautiful.
Great music and people and laughter. Deep conversations between the
passengers and driver begin to take place. We get caught up, invest
in the thought provoking dialogue we are all having, transformative
dialogue. We are all getting enlightened. On an emotional, mental
and spiritual levels. When the car ride ends, you arrive. You get
out and realize you’re back home. That the journey was the
destination, the journey was within you. That’s what it felt like
to me. Didn’t end where I thought it would, delivered something
much more profound. And that’s what great storytelling is in my