Spike Jonze Her A Voices 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.
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 Phoenix :
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.
Personally, I’m glad to see Joaquin up on the silver screen again where he proves yet again how completely gifted he is.
Scarlett Johansson :
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 an intimate relationship unfold in front of you. Scarlett is limited to verbally conveying her performance. She does a great job in my opinion. This is a challenging role to strut your acting chops with, and she does.
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 Adams :
Listen People, You Can’t Touch Amy Adams.
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. 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 performance here.
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 difficulties that arise because of the physical limits of their relationship begin totake 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 Golden Globe 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 happen 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 and says:
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.
And as it begins and to 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.
It’s 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.
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, and before you know it, you’re not only being entertained, you’re 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 book.