Spike Jonze sat down for a chat with his best buddy David O. Russell on Saturday at the Los Angeles Film Fest to talk about his career and unveil two new clips from his upcoming film, “Her,” starring Joaquin Phoenix, Chris Pratt, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and Scarlett Johansson. We’ll have more highlights from their freewheeling chat ranging from Jonze’s early skate and music video days and more later on, but first we wanted to give you the details on the clips from “Her.”
The film still seems very much in production as Jonze said, “this is a movie that we are still finishing, there’s some scenes we still want to do, couple scenes that we’re writing that we still want to shoot,” so while what we saw looked very polished (though unmixed and with no color correction), Jonze continues to hone his work and find the film in the editing and post-production process.
Pointing out that this was the first movie Jonze also wrote himself, Russell added that what’s seen so far — despite Jonze’s typically arduous process — suggests he’s doing everything he can to get it just right. “I think it’s an instinctive film, I have a very good feeling about this movie, because you know, I’ve seen you tortured over different projects, and this one, you added a layer of torture to it, just to make sure you were being careful, doing your due diligence,” Russell commented. “But it seemed like it all came out, I read it in your apartment and it was all there.” Needless to say, it seems like “Her” is definitely a picture that is close to Jonze’s heart.
Jonze described the film and the two clips by saying, “It’s a movie set in the slight future of L.A. and Joaquin Phoenix’s character buys the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system. There’s two scenes, where he installs this… it basically turns into a human, this entity, this consciousness, on his computer, and then there’s another scene a little later, as their relationship has sort of evolved into something more romantic.”
In the first clip, Theodore (Phoenix) installs the software on his computer, and it asks him a few personal questions along the way to tailor the experience to him. He’s sporting reddish curly hair, a mustache, round tortoiseshell glasses and sits in a high rise urban apartment. Though it is set in the slight future, his clothes are a bit retro, wearing tan high waisted pants and a red collared shirt. He seems to be a bit shy, kind of nebbish-y, sweetly dorky and caught off guard by the questions of the operating system. He chooses a female voice, and is instantly intrigued by Samantha (Scarlett Johansson, who replaced Samantha Morton). She’s smart and engaging and clever, and he warms to her right away.
In the second clip, he’s takes Samantha to the beach, via a small device in his front pocket. As he basks in the sun and sand, she plays a piano tune and he asks her what it is. She replies that she’s trying to capture what it’s like to be on the beach with him. The tone is decidedly warmer, more intimate and romantic. As he heads home via light rail, she asks about his failed marriage and we see a montage of his relationship with Rooney Mara as he describes it in voice over. He says it was hard but good to share your life with somebody. He says that they grew up together, she’s a PhD and they were a big influence on each other. and while the relationship certainly seemed loving, the change they both experienced as they grew together was hard. They continue to discuss what it’s like to rehash old arguments and Samantha admits to going over something Theodore had said the other day. As she ruminates on this thought process of memory and interpretation of the past, she remarks, “isn’t that interesting? the past is just a story we tell ourselves.” The tone of this scene is beautiful and bittersweet, filled with memories and regrets from old relationships. The cinematography in both clips (by “The Fighter” cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema) is soft and warm, naturalistic and intimate.
“Her” has a limited release date set for November 20th (maybe it will make an appearance at one of the fall festivals?). It looks to be one of Jonze’s most personal and insightful efforts yet. Stay tuned for more from Jonze’s talk with Russell about his career from the L.A. Film Festival.