Jennie Morris and I have been friends for so long that when we were kids, we’d spend hours at one another’s houses playing Atari video games — specifically, Pitfall and Megamania, in case you were wondering. (Yes, we are dating ourselves.) Now, we’re both grown-ass women with husbands and sons and careers that incorporate our love of film — and technology has improved significantly since 1982, thankfully.
But given our fond childhood memories, I thought “Her” would be a good fit for us to see together and have a Movies-With-Friends discussion afterward. I’d already seen Spike Jonze’s beautiful and brilliant drama about a lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) in a near-future version of Los Angeles, but loved it so much that I was happy to revisit it in the theater with her. Jennie also happens to know a little something about movies — she’s the senior vice president of acquisitions and operations for Pivot TV and was a longtime Sundance Channel executive — so I wanted to hear her opinion on Jonze’s film.
We saw “Her” together recently at the AMC Century City, then chatted about it over veggie burgers and glasses of zinfandel at nearby Gulfstream — and we kept our phone-checking to a minimum. (Warning for folks who haven’t seen “Her”: There are a few spoilers here.):
CL: There was so much hype surrounding this movie. Did it live up to the hype for you?
JM: It’s a really interesting movie but maybe not for the reasons it purports itself to be. I think it’s interesting mostly due to the fact that it just sort of explores relationships. The OS device is sort of superfluous, in a way.
CL: Because she makes it so real. She creates such a real person.
JM: She does. And then it really is about people and relationships.
CL: If you feel it, is it real?
JM: Right. The thing I liked least about the movie was when it became less about people in real relationships — when it was that she was talking to 641 people or 8,000 people.
CL: But that’s a great twist! You don’t see that coming. The first time I saw this movie, I didn’t see that coming.
JM: When he’s sitting there looking at all these people talking, that’s when I knew. Actually what I thought was when Amy Adams brings up her OS friend, I thought maybe they were the same person.
CL: That would be the big, cheesy, studio-comedy version of this — that they’re having a three-way.
JM: I didn’t like the last half hour nearly as much as the rest of the movie.
CL: The twist — the revelation that she is in love with other people — I think so mirrors the real expectations we often have about love, about fidelity. We have expectations that love is supposed to be monogamous, that you never even look at anybody else. That element of the film addresses that — the letdown that love often creates for you.
JM: Yeah. I didn’t need it to be a thousand people or 600 people. The OS gimmick is really a gimmick to talk about people and relationships — particularly, obviously, people nowadays who are so connected to technology.
CL: We both checked our phones before we sat down to eat.
JM: Totally. We definitely are addicted, connected in that way. And it’s meaningful to us, just as it becomes extraordinarily meaningful to him. So there is that piece of it. I guess in my mind it’s sort of two separate things. One is, what does it mean to be in a relationship, how do share your life with someone? That, to me, was more interesting than the tech piece.
CL: OK. What year do you think this takes place in?
JM: I sort of imagined it, like, 50 years in the future.
CL: It’s definitely LA but he also shot it in Shanghai. I was amazed at how grounded it is for a Spike Jonze film. It’s his least fantastical — it’s his most recognizable in terms of actual emotions and I like that about it. It’s not inside someone’s brain. It’s not overlapping narratives reflecting on each other. It’s not about giant, furry creatures on an island. And I love all those films and I love his eye and I love his daring.
JM: I love the slightly futuristic feel. The fashion, everything being slightly off.
CL: Oh my God, the clothing is horrible in the future! Why? Everything Peter Sarsgaard wears …
CL: The high-waisted pants. Do you think it will now create a trend of high-waisted pants?
JM: It might.
CL: I’m really afraid of that, actually.
JM: It very well could.
CL: They even make Amy Adams frumpy. Look at her in this and then look at her in “American Hustle,” where it’s all big hair and sequins and side-boob.
JM: She’s very sweet in this, though. I always like her.
CL: I always like her, too. And so was (Phoenix). This is probably the sweetest, lightest role I’ve ever seen him in — especially compared to his recent stuff like “The Master” and that fake documentary he did. I’ve never seen him be funny — I can’t remember him being funny.
JM: He is lighter but he’s still super intense. But he definitely had a human quality. He’s definitely relatable as a person, and as a sad person.
CL: There is a theory — and I didn’t know this when I first saw it, but I’ve heard it since and watched it with an eye to this –that this is Spike Jonze’s response to “Lost in Translation,” and his reflection on his divorce from Sofia Coppola. What do you think of that?
JM: That all totally makes sense and sounds right on.
CL: Rooney Mara (as Phoenix’s ex-wife) has a similar figure and she even looks like her.
JM: She does kind of look like her. She’s not especially appealing in the film.
CL: But she’s also not evil. She just wants what she wants and they’re not on the same page.
JM: Mm-hmm. The “Lost in Translation” thing is interesting.
CL: And Scarlett Johansson is in both of them.
JM: Totally makes sense.
CL: When I first heard that theory, I thought: “My mind is now blown.”