Spike Jonze | Her
How do you craft a compelling love story when one of your leads is never actually on screen? How do two actors achieve chemistry with one another when one of them can only interact with the other’s voice? How can audiences believe in an authentic, relatable romance between a man and a machine? Each of these questions would be difficult for almost any screenwriter to answer, but Spike Jonze, through his masterful work in Her, is able to not only provide valid solutions to these possible problems but actually break down these boundaries all together, thus creating a script that is, without any doubt, the year’s best.
While the competition for Best Original Screenplay is quite strong this year (American Hustle, Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club, and Blue Jasmine), none of those other four films possess the heart, scope, and pure ambition of Spike Jonze’s work in Her. Through his words, Jonze is able construct a realistic, near-future setting, which feels just similar enough for us to connect to but different enough that we can recognize the little, specific details that Jonze himself invented.
More importantly, however, Jonze gives depth to a concept (put simply: a man falling in love with his computer) that could have been treated as an exploration into the psychological ramifications of isolation, or as a simple, one-joke punch line. Every exchange between Theodore and Samantha throughout the movie is emotionally authentic and believable. Jonze never shies away from the awkward or uncomfortable moments that occur throughout the building of a relaitonship, like when Samantha expresses how she was initially mad at Theodore’s belief that she was emotionally limited, or when a human surrogate visits Theodore’s apartment upon Samantha’s request, leading to an emotional breakdown from Theodore and a heart wrenching conversation between the pair. But Jonze also embraces the beauty of newfound romance, such as the profound excitement etched across Theodore’s face as he runs across the city streets, talking to Samantha the entire time, or Samantha’s composition of a wondrous, soulful melody that represents the photograph that she and Theodore will never have together.
Even though the concept is unique enough itself, what makes Her stand out from the rest of the Best Original Screenplay nominees is not its futuristic-infused landscape or its ambitious challenge to what can and should be considered a real relationship. No, what makes Her so special is the tenderness, compassion, and honesty that bleeds through each word or action, a thoughtful meditation on what it means to be human, what it means to be truly be in love.