C: I think it is safe to say that Spike Jonze has made some “different” films in his career. What is your relationship to the man, and what do you think of his latest feature, Her?
V: I have been a fan of Spike Jonze ever since he was shooting videos for the Beastie Boys and Bjork. With his features he can take a very odd concept and ground it in reality. I feel the same thing can be said about Her.
C: I could not agree more. You have Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) who works for a company who writes love letters in the not too distant future in Los Angeles, and he falls in love with his operating system. LA doesn’t look too different other than the technological advancements, but it also feels like a place we could be in the next couple of years. How did you feel about this futuristic approach?
V: It is interesting to point out that Spike Jonze did shoot a lot of the exteriors in Japan. I really liked that its design was very plausible and yet you know very well that it not set in our time. It is the future without having to go all Jetsons like. Do you feel like this OS system could exist in the near future. Could I have my own Samantha?
C: I think it is always hard to tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Everything we do today is run by computers, so why not have a friend who is just there to listen and talk to? If it isn’t destined to occur, I think Spike Jonze makes it realistic enough to give us the thought that we could have our own OS’s in years to come. I mean, we have Siri, which isn’t an artificial intelligence per se, but it’s an ever reaching technological advancement that I’m sure is bound to happen one day. Whether it happens or not I will always hope to have my very own Samantha (with Scarlett Johansson’s voice) in my ear.
V: Speaking of Miss Johansson. What did you think about her work in this. Originally Samantha Morton was on set with Joaquin Phoenix and she was set to be the original voice of Samantha. I think the fact that Scarlett was not on set with him added to her performance of not actually being there. She was more of an artificial intelligent system that way. Yet she was still her own person.
C: I think all of the performances are spectacular, but setting the others aside and just focusing on Johansson at the moment, the fact that they dubbed her over Samantha Morton is mind boggling because of how natural it feels and sounds. It is as if Samantha is actually there as an AI talking to Phoenix, and the absence of Johansson actually on set is something I still can’t wrap my head around because it’s just done so well. What did you think of her, or her sexy voice?
V: Well to be fair. Miss Johansson did not necessarily dub over Morton, but I thought she did put in a very great performance. Mainly due to the fact she had no one to act with. She was locked in a sound booth and watched dailies. To put in that good of a performance without anyone around you is really quite something, especially during certain scenes. I felt like I was discovering things with her. What did you feel about Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore. I thought he was going to be this quiet, lonely guy with no friends, but he actually does get out and have a pretty active social life.
C: I thought the same about Phoenix, but when he is onscreen he’s captivating. His character is this broken guy that you sort of pity, but at the same time as the film progresses, you grow with the character as he starts opening up. It very much is like we are involved in his and Samantha’s relationship as we continue to learn new things about him too. While you feel Samantha’s interaction is real, it helps because Phoenix’s performance is the same. Every moment on screen he digs deeper into his past, and with the powerhouse acting that he gives, it’s mesmerizing.
V: Agree 100 percent with that last statement. I really loved that it never shows his past relationships in a negative way. It presents them in a very honest way. The time he has with Rooney Mara’s character were both very sweet and sad. I feel like a lot of us including me, could say the same things about past relationships we’ve had.
C: I definitely think it taps into that, as well as a lot of other themes that Spike Jonze plays with. What do you think about people dating their OS’s? Or just the theme of technological advancement that the film gives? I could rattle off a lot of different things Jonze was going for and I feel he hits it dead on.
V: Well if my toaster oven sounded like Scarlett Johansson. Yeah I might try and hit that, but in all seriousness, when I first watched them becoming more intimate with each other I thought I was going to laugh at how absurd it would be. I liked that it had no visuals and you can just hear their voices. It was a tender moment between two fully fleshed out people instead of a guy alone with his computer. I guess if friends of mine were dating their computer I would feel a bit odd until I started talking to them. Once I can hear that this is a real persona with a real voice and mind, I could support that relationship. What about you? Could you handle friends dating their electronic devices?
C: I think eventually, yes, but it would be jarring at first. I love that the film takes this approach of dating your OS as if it were a different race, or even with homosexuality. You have Theodore who is nervous about it, he doesn’t know how people will react when he tells them, but you get different behavior throughout. Rooney Mara (who is great in what she is in of this) sort of makes fun of him in the most villainous of ways for not being able to handle a real relationship. But at the same time there is his coworker Paul (Chris Pratt) who is completely open about it, and that’s also his character. When Theo approaches him about the double date and quickly says he is dating Samantha it doesn’t phase Paul in any way. It sort of becomes the normal which I found fascinating. There are also some themes of long distance relationships that I think had an impact on Jonze with his marriage to Sofia Coppola, but that could just be me. Also, after awhile even I had a hard time with remembering that Samantha wasn’t real.
C: This is actually Spike Jonze’s first attempt at lone screenwriting. Do you feel there is a change? I think this is a more mature film than say Being John Malkovich, or Adaptation.
V: I will agree with you that this is a much more mature film then those other two. However if I found out later that Charlie Kaufman did help out with the script, I wouldn’t be surprised. There are some scenes that feel like they could only come from his mind. The scene where Theodore tries phone sex before meeting Samantha was completely surprising, but very funny (by the way that is Kristen Wiig as that voice). I do like what you wrote about Theodore being a bit nervous letting people know about Samantha. As for Catherine (Rooney Mara) and her reaction, I think she was more upset that their relationship didn’t work out. More than the fact he was dating an OS, I took that more as she was feeling that she got passed over by something considered artificial. Like maybe she felt like she wasn’t a real person herself. I really enjoyed Amy (Amy Adams) telling Theodore that life is too short to worry about what people think. If you love someone and they love you back, who cares about what others think of it? What did you think about the scene when a surrogate was brought in? Do you think Theodore made the right choice? It was kind of a disturbing scene, I thought?
C: Watching that scene was a bit uncomfortable because of how uncomfortable Theodore was. It was definitely odd, but I liked the scene and the idea of a surrogate was interesting. I do think he made the right choice because he was in love with Samantha and wasn’t really into the idea from the beginning. Amy Adams has had one hell of a year, and I think this is the best I’ve seen her. She plays the nerdy girl well, but her character was such a nice breath of fresh air for this picture of watching a man fall in love with something that’s not there. And then when you see where Adams’ character goes it helps flesh out what these OS’s really mean to the culture and just how wide-spanned they’ve become from the start of the film to the end. The film as a whole is beautifully shot, but if you notice when Theo is with Amy, the lighting and the angle of the camera are different. It is a nice touch in a quickly paced film that tugs at the heartstrings.
C: Did you have any thoughts on the score for the film? I know Spike Jonze is known for that with his past of music videos.
V: The very opening of this film has this sound that puts you into the landscape of this world. I believe that Arcade Fire helped write the score of this and it was beautiful. Most movies set in the near future have this electronica style to their scores, and I really appreciated that this was very different. I liked that it had more of a traditional folk vibe in a lot of its songs, but at the same time it also incorporates sounds of machines into it too. Oh, and I will just say that the Moon Song that was sung by Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs was simply beautiful. I forgot how well that girl can sing .
V: How would you describe this film’s genre? I have heard one critic claim this to be the best science fiction movie of 2013. Does it fit into that genre as well as other ones? Who would you recommend see this? I could praise this movie to the end of time and I know many of my friends and family would not get passed the concept to check this one out.
C: It is without a doubt a “weird” film. When the trailers would play you could hear the audience groan or laugh at the concept alone, so recommending this to the general public is difficult on the basis that it is not for everyone. Film lovers love it, or people just looking for a change in the romantic-comedy genre. I look at this film as science fiction through and through; I also see it as a rom-com more so. I love both genres and to see it go toward the direction it is going is such a delight. Thought provoking sci-fi and romantic-comedies are wonderful and I honestly think they are improving to an extent.
V: Very well said. I believe that if audiences are fascinated by films and crave something new they will seek this one out. If people see this more as a Rom-Com, that is fine. If they see this more as a science fiction tale about our future, that is fine too. I would love to see more stories set within this world. It would be kind of cool to see a story about the surrogates and see the differences between the relationships in both the physical versus the artificial. Like have a guy fall in love with a surrogate, but soon discovers that it was an artificial person making him feel that way. There are so many ways that story could go, but to be clear I don’t want a sequel. Just another story in this world. Do you agree? Can there be more stories within this world.?
C: I think there is a lot of material to expand this universe, yes. There are many things Jonze could do, like the surrogate idea that you brought up, or even a male OS. There aren’t any male OS’s featured at all in the film and I would have really liked to see just what that would have been like. A lonely guy who just needs a friend gets an OS and they become buddies would make for a great comedy in general. I’m with you though that I don’t want a sequel, and I’m not sure I really want a “spin-off” for that matter. I think the film is damn near perfect and can’t wait to watch it again.
C: Do you have any last thoughts and a score for Her?
V: Spike Jonze’s Her is a movie that looks towards the future with our ongoing obsession with technology. Yet it strongly makes the case that interaction between people (real or artificial) are just as important. Every way humans are connecting with each other is done through computers. This entire review for example was done strictly by computers talking to each other. It won’t be long before they start talking to us. I just hope that we are as open minded about it like Theodore and the others were. My score is a 9.5.
C: I too adored the film. There are a lot of things Spike Jonze tries to get out and I think he does it perfectly. There really isn’t anything like Her out this year and I think people will find it oddly sweet for their viewing. Her is a wonderfully poignant film that has a lot to say and I think its honesty is dead on. My score is a 9.5 as well.
Colin’s Overall: 9.5/10
Vern’s Overall: 9.5/10