‘Her’ (Spike Jonze, 2013)

Spike Jonze’s directing efforts are all the more cherished for their infrequency. As with fellow ’99 club members David Fincher and P.T Anderson (an immeasurably important group to my teenage self), Jonze recognises that less is more and a scarcity of directing credits keeps the work fresh and the fans hungry. Incidentally, it’s the same ‘produce less, make sure it’s damn good’ logic employed by tour-heavy, album-light soundtrack providers Arcade Fire.

Her is a solo-Jonze script job, still rolling on the energy, influence and metaphysical ponderings of his Charlie Kaufman collaborations but perhaps less esoteric, certainly a world away from the near-impenetrable (but oh so great) Synecdoche, New York. Unlike Kaufman, who appealed exclusively to the art crowd once freed from the restrictions of pooled creativity, Jonze has a legitimate awards-hitter here with Megan Ellison’s money greasing the way to a Best Picture nomination. For an offbeat sci-fi romance, on the outer fringes of mainstream, that’s an impressive feat.

There’s a lot of Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind here, the melancholia of softcore indie rubbing against big name cast and colourful visuals, a frightening earnest heart on full display as off-putting to some as it is alluring to others. Joaquin Phoenix is always great, but its Scarlett Johansson that kills here, complimenting Phoenix’s lead perfectly whilst advancing the concept of a VO performance further than any animated competitor or mo-cap monster. Freed from the physical body, this is the best work of Johansson’s career, a breakthrough well deserved of a performer underrated by her critics, always chasing the ghost of the other miraculous Hollywood romance which kicked her into stardom, 2003’s Lost in Translation. That films writer/director, Sofia Coppola (interestingly, Jonze’s ex-wife) saw her career splutter out somewhat after its release. Let’s pray a similar curse doesn’t befall Jonze…