The film takes place in a not so distant future where human communications have evolved into something quite fascinating: people get paid to write handwritten letters, video games push your buttons and force you to try harder and computer operating systems have personalities that you can even fall for. This happens to the film's protagonist Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls madly in love with his OS named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).
The film is a small masterpiece that will undoubtedly appear on endless Top Ten lists at the end of the year and here are a few random thoughts I had about the film and at the press conference that followed which included appearances from Jonze, Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara and Olivia Wilde.
More Jonze, Phoenix and ScarJo after the jump!
1. Is Joaquin Phoenix the best romantic leading man out there?
I know Joaquin Phoenix's name isn't the first that comes to mind when we think romantic movies, at least not in the way Cary Grant or even Tom Hanks would during their respective heydays, but watching his sad, heartbroken face as Theodore and the way he responded to the wonderful actresses around him (he had wonderful chemistry with all of them!) made me swoon in such a way, that I ended up wanting to date him too. This reminded me of his terrific work in James Gray's Two Lovers, in which we also see him give in to chaotic love with complete abandon and of course there's also his Johnny Cash...Do you think filmmakers should be pursuing him for more '70s style romances (think of him as Jon Voight, Pacino or De Niro opposite Fonda, Pfeiffer and Streep)
2. Has Spike Jonze become his very own Charlie Kaufman?
Jonze has made four movies. The first two were written by Charlie Kaufman, the third co-written by Jonze and Dave Eggers and Her he wrote all by himself. After Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, it seemed as if the duo Jonze-Kaufman was the most creative team in Hollywood, but then Kaufman went on to work with other directors and even directed his own films. And here we have Her, a film so unique and quirky that it feels Kaufman-esque. Did Jonze learn how to write like Kaufman? Did Kaufman appropriate Jonze's aesthetics? Is this an egg and chicken situation? Regardless, the writing is precious.
Here's what the actors had to say about how they reacted to the screenplay.
3. Why Do Movie Stars Who Hate Press Conferences Go to Press Conferences?
Making his second appearance at this year's NYFF, Joaquin was slightly more social today than he was at the press conference for The Immigrant, where he seemed to enjoy torturing poor James Gray with his antisocial skills. Today, he ran towards the stage screaming out "Roooooney!" when the host mistakenly called her name out first. He proceeded to avoid questions and torture Rooney Mara, who looked even more uncomfortable than him. I think they are both terrific actors and their social awkwardness makes for some great anecdotes but sometimes I can't help but feel their pain.
4. Hello Olivia Wilde!
Shyness and social awkwardness allow for others to steal your thunder and Olivia Wilde was today's MVP (after Jonze of course whose responses were a joy). I have never really "gotten" her, but today as she rescued Amy, Rooney and Joaquin constantly (while towering over them in fierce stilettos) I couldn't help but want to go home and see more of her work. Has anyone seen Drinking Buddies? Should I check it out?
5. Welcome back ScarJo!
Her performance in Her (this will get confusing, I know...) might be her finest work to date. So full of nuance, precision and soul...and to think we never even get to see her! Jonze answered a question about why not going with Samantha Morton as originally intended. He was diplomatic enough to praise Morton's contributions to the film, but upon listening to Scarlett's work, it's one of those "I can't imagine anyone else in the part" kind of things. I'm sure in a screening somewhere room in Los Angeles, Lake Bell is watching this film and crying from joy, feeling extra proud of ScarJo. Extra points for being sexier here than in Don Jon, where she was already on fire!
6. Movies Her reminded me of:
Annie Hall, Annie Hall, Annie Hall.
I think it's officially my favorite American film of 2013. Can't wait for everyone else to see it and talk about it.
How about you dear reader? Will you be watching the film tonight or going on opening week next month? Do you think of Joaquin as the ultimate romantic leading man? What advice would you give to him and Rooney about public speaking?