Spike Jonze Delights With Sneak Peek of ‘Her’: Fall In Love With a ScarJo Bot

The filmmaker brought scenes of his new movie to the Toronto Film Festival on Sunday

From the vivid and always unpredictable imagination of Spike Jonze comes “Her” – or at least a glimpse of it – at the Toronto Film Festival on Sunday, where the writer-director showed scenes of his story about a man falling in love with his operating system.

That’s right, it’s ScarJo as Siri, but a lot sexier.

Scarlett Johansson plays Samantha, the disembodied yet completely fetching voice of the computer operating system of Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix (now with a moustache).  He falls in love with her, and in the scenes showed at the festival, takes her to the beach in the form of an earbud, and snuggles in bed with her in the form of an iPhone.

See photosThe Scene at the Toronto Film Festival

While this may be the tamest idea to come from the head of the man who brought us “Being John Malkovich,” the filmmaker – who also wrote this script – seems right on the cutting edge of the ideas challenging our society with this story.

In an interview to accompany the clips by fellow filmmaker Kelly Reichardt (“Night Moves”), Jonze said he had no idea whether he was pro or con – technology, that is – in telling this story. “A lot of things I’m feeling about relationships or technology are sometimes contradictory,” he said.  “I don’t know if I have an answer.”

Jonze (“Adaptation,” “Where the Wild Things Are”) said he got the idea for the movie three years ago when he found he could instant message with a computer in dealing with a computer problem. “For the first 20 seconds I had a real buzz. Like, whoa, this is trippy.  And after 20 seconds it quickly fell apart and you realized how it worked.  It was a program. The more people that talked to it the smarter it got.”

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So does Samantha, but for real. Then Jonze found that in the middle of his writing the screenplay, the iPhone came out with Siri. “I thought, ‘That sucks, they stole my thunder.’ But ultimately it didn’t matter – it was inevitable.”

The four scenes showed in Toronto had Jonze’s unique sense of whimsy and surrealism that have set him utterly apart as an auteur. After all, there aren’t many Hollywood movies that could credibly offer dialogue like this, between Phoenix and Amy Adams, who plays a friend also bonding with her OS. (Dialogue not verbatim, but close):

Amy: I know this guy hitting on his OS

Theodore: Yeah

Amy: There’s a woman in this office who’s dating someone else’s OS

Theodore: Really? (He then admits he’s also dating an OS.)

Amy: You’re dating an OS.

Theodore: It’s great. I feel really close to her. When we’re in bed, I feel cuddled.

Megan Ellison (“The Master”) produced the movie, and Warner Bros. will distribute it in January.