If the above title sounds a bit too “National Enquirer”-y for you, I apologize. I am usually the first to acknowledge that there is rarely any time when gossip-style news should be discussed, let alone deemed “important,” especially in relation to art, whose definitive artistic motivations shouldn’t allow for any culturally-reflexive speculation to add further meaning to.
Spike Jonze, however, being the most self-reflexive (read: “meta”) working director in American cinema today with such existential art-house hits as the Academy Award-nominated Being John Malkovich and the Charlie Kaufman-penned Adaptation, makes it impossible not to make culturally commentating mountains out of every mole-hill that arises in his work as a postmodern commentary on (his) life as art.
Which makes it impossible not to conclude that when he makes a film with the tagline “A Spike Jonze Love Story,” he has indeed just cast his famous auteur-ex as the female love interest in his newest movie, titled simply, Her.
Now before I get too far along, I must acknowledge that the use of quotes around “Sofia Coppola” in the title is imperative to the theory at hand. As a quick debriefing, and as is my basic understanding of the situation, Spike and Sofia first met on a Sonic Youth music video set (of course), were soon married afterward, and four years later, divorced. And how else would any yearning artist document and internalize the experience? Enter: Sofia Coppola’s Academy Award-winning Lost In Translation.
As can be substantiated by movie critics, perhaps probably by its cast, and (arguably) definitely by Sofia herself, the acclaimed indie was loosely based off of her frustrating marriage with (then) husband, Spike (or, Adam). The film told the story of a beautiful, yet neglected, girlfriend of a bumbling jet-setter photographer, whose shared trip to Tokyo resulted in him ditching her to photograph a beautifully dumb celebrity blonde, and leaving her to fall in love with Bill Murray. As rumor goes, this dumb blonde, “Kelly,” played by Anna Farris, was supposedly based off of “Cameron” Diaz, who (allegedly) aroused a mutually-shared affinity for a married Spike on the set of his 1999 film, Being John Malkovich (While doing press for the film, Farris was suspiciously cryptic about who her character’s inspiration was drawn from). The “Spike” in the Translation equation was played by Giovanni Ribisi, whose fidgety, nasally-sounding photographer character reads Spike to a comically obvious degree. And who did Sofia cast to play “herself,” the quiet, introspective, lovelorn heroine?, but Scarlett Johansson.
And who did Spike Jonze cast as the leading lady of his newest love story, but Scarlett herself.
As the first trailer, released today, shows, Jonze’s latest film (his first writer/director effort) tells the story of struggling, single, LA writer Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix. In hopes to better organize his schleppy life, and upon selecting the voice of a “woman,” whose voice should pop up from the computer speakers than that of the faint, sexy, rasp of Ms. Johansson’s, voice of the operating system, named “Samantha.” Now, the film was shot with a different voice actress on set (Samantha Morton, whose name I’m sure is in no way linked to that of the OS’s self-given name in the film), who acted offscreen to Joaquin, and whose voice was switched in post-production so that Johansson’s dialogue was re-recorded to be the HAL-like voice in the movie. Was this intended all along? For any other director, whose work isn’t as pointedly self-aware as Spike’s, I’d say probably not. But in looking at a self-actualized species like Spike, all evidence should point to the obvious. And what is this obvious? That Spike would take the once “Sofia” character, and repurpose her as his own muse, trapping her in a lifeless, prison of a machine, developing an unrequited love for a sad-sack writer whose impossible love reads tragic, as the feelings and love shared by both lovers ultimately fail to bring the two together to live happily in reality.
As I (or anyone) have yet to see this movie, the above speculation should be taken as just that. Also, there is (supposedly) no bad blood between Sofia and Spike, and the rumor is that Spike himself was even on set for Translation, and fully aware of the deeper subtext of the film, and his role in it. But that’s not to say that he doesn’t still harbor any unresolved feelings about his failed marriage, as would any rational human being. And how else would any meta-working director deal with the emotions felt for the one that got away? Well, he’d probably make a movie.
A movie about Her.
Her arrives in theaters November 20th.
In the not so distant future, Theodore (Phoenix), a lonely writer purchases a newly developed operating system designed to meet the user’s every need. To Theodore’s surprise, a romantic relationship develops between him and his operating system. This unconventional love story blends science fiction and romance in a sweet tale that explores the nature of love and the ways that technology isolates and connects us all.