Spike Jonze doesn't waste any time introducing us to the technology at the center of Her. "An operating system that can mimic human sentience?" a dangerously lonely Joaquin Phoenix wonders after catching glimpse of an ad in a transit station. "Don't mind if I do!" (He doesn't actually say that, don't worry.) But by the time we're meant to believe that such a world can seamlessly integrate characters like Scarlett Johansson's automated voice Samantha into the lives of living, breathing men and women like Phoenix's Theodore, we're already established residents of this arresting, icy, quivering world the filmmaker has built. We meet Theodore midway through his recitation of a "handwritten letter" he penned on behalf of a woman to her husband of many years. That's his job — tapping into his own unique sensititivies to play ghostwriter for people hoping to adorn their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and children with personal notes of personal affection. Theodore is no independent contractor; he's part of a thriving company, and we almost get the feeling that the folks on the receiving end of these letters are in the know. Before we ever encounter Samantha, we're embedded in the central conceit of the movie: emotional surrogacy is an industry on the rise.
What makes Jonze's world so palatable is that, beneath its marvelously eerie aesthetic, this idea is barely science-fiction. Theodore, humbled and scarred by a recent divorce from lifelong love Catherine (Rooney Mara, who contrasts Johansson by giving a performance that, for a large sum of the movie, is all body and no voice), accesses the will to go on through interractions with video game characters and phone-sex hotlines. But the ante is upped with Samantha, the self-named operating system that Theodore purchases to stave off loneliness, deeming choice a far less contorting one than spending time with old pals like Amy (Amy Adams)... at first.
Samantha evolves rather quickly from an articulate Siri into a curious companion, who is fed and engaged by Theodore just as much as she feeds and engages him. Jonze paces his construction of what, exactly, Samantha is so carefully that we won't even catch the individual steps in her change — along with Theodore, we slowly grow more and more enamored and mystified by his computer/assistant/friend/lover before we can recognize that we're dealing with a different being altogether from the one we met at that inceptive self-aware "H-hello?" But Jonze lays tremendous groundwork to let us know this story is all for something: all the while, as the attractions build and the hearts beat faster for Samantha, we foster an unmistakable sense of doom. We can't help but dread the very same perils that instituted one infamous admission: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
But Jonze's sci-fi constructs are so cohesively intertwined with his love story that our dread doesn't exactly translate to an anticipation of HAL's hostile takeover. Her wedges us so tightly between Theodore and Samantha that our fears of the inevitable clash between man and machine apprehend a smaller, more intimate ruin. As Samantha's growth become more surprising and challenging to Theodore, to herself, and to us, the omens build for each.
And although all three parties know better, we cannot help but affix ourselves to the chemistry between Theodore and Samantha, and to the possibility that we're building toward something supreme. A good faction of this is due to the unbelievable performances of Phoenix — representing the cautious excitement that we all know so painfully well — and Johansson, who twists her disembodied voice so empathetically that we find ourselves, like Theodore, forgetting that we have yet to actually meet her. The one castigation that we can attach to the casting of Johansson is that such a recognizable face will, inevitably, work its way into our heads when we're listening to her performance. It almost feels like a cheat, although we can guarantee that a performance this good would render a figure just as vivid even if delivered by an unknown.
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In this way, Her is as effective a comment on the healthiest human relationships as it is on those that rope in third parties — be they of the living, automated, or greeting card variety. In fact, the movie has so many things to say that it occasionally steps on its own feet, opening up ideas so grand (and coloring them so brightly) that it sometimes has trouble capping them coherently. Admittedly, if Spike Jonze had an answer to some of the questions he's asking here, he'd probably be suspected of himself being a super-intelligent computer. But in telling the story of a man struggling to understand what it means to be in love, to an operating system or not, Jonze invites us to dissect all of the manic and trying and wonderful and terrifying and incomprehensible elements therein. Just like Samantha, Her doesn't always know what to do with all of its brilliance. But that might be part of why we're so crazy over the both of them.
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They're making a Gilligan's Island movie. Josh Gad is in it. This is the news we find ourselves facing today.
Gilligan's Island purists (there's a purist for everything) are probably hollering over the news of Gad at the center of this production. "The Book of Mormon kid as Gilligan? That's conflicts with my purism!" But as of yet, we're not entirely sure who Gad is set to play. The assumption: Gilligan. The official word: TBA. So, really, there are seven possible ways this movie can go...
Josh Gad as GilliganThe most straightforward adaptation of the sitcom, with Gad playing the bumbling title character who consistently thwarts his friends' attempts at escaping the confines of their desert island prison. Sight gags, goofy repartee, wacky laughs, and a simplistic message about believing in yourself and the people you love. Maybe Gad's Gilligan has a romantic flight with hometown gal Mary Ann? That'd sell. We mean, foster artistic merit. Directed by Shawn Levy.
Also starringThe Skipper... Kevin JamesThe Millionaire... Jason BatemanHis Wife... Allison JanneyThe Movie Star... Sofia VergaraThe Professor... Jon Hamm (in glasses!)Mary Ann... Ellie Kemper
Josh Gad as The SkipperYou know, for kids! If Gad takes on the role of the Skipper, a maritime man who has quite a few years on the rest of the characters, we might be seeing something in the vein of a Disney Channel vacation flick. Gad and his nephew "Gil" operate an ocean excursion for privileged youths and wind up on a crazy island adventure! Gad must wrangle these preteens (and teach them a few lessons about growing up) in this family-friendly 90-minute TV movie (with commercials). Rally the the small nation of people that wrote and directed the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movies.
Also starringGilligan... Rico RodriguezThe Millionaire... One of the Sprouse twins (maybe not the one with the naked pictures scandal, just to be safe)His "Wife"... iCarlyThe Movie Star... Somebody named ZendayaThe Professor... The kid from Iron Man 3Mary Ann... My cousin Kylee recommended Bridget Mendler, but, admittedly, Kylee doesn't know what Gilligan's Island is
Josh Gad as The Millionaire The quirky indie! We've seen a lot of stylistic liberties taken with old television programs and books, with an extra dose of contemporary eccentricity injected into properties like Dark Shadows or Fantastic Mr. Fox. Casting Gad as the (Internet) millionaire would kick off this new Gilligan with that dry, satirical flavor we find in so many offbeat indie flicks, rendering the entire island adventure a venue for deadpan non sequiturs and (quite appropriately) ukulele solos. Is Noah Baumbach available? No? Damn.
Also starringGilligan... Jason SchwartzmanThe Skipper... Mark Ruffalo (is he still doing this stuff, or is he all Hulk now?)His Wife... Charlyne YiThe Professor... Mark DuplassThe Movie Star... Zoe Kazan, or a Zoe Kazan equivalentMary Ann... Greta Gerwig, obviously
Josh Gad as His WifeThe broader-than-broad cross-dressing comedy! The kind of humor you find on the cutting room floor of Yogi Bear. If there's time to work in a plot between instances of human (and animal) flatulence, so be it. Overweight Gad playing the butt of every joke as Thurston Howell III's hilariously unattractive wife? That's not just comedy, it's America! Brett Ratner is already signed on for a three-picture deal.
Also starringGilligan, The Skipper, The Millionaire, The Movie Star, and The Professor... Eddie MurphyMary Ann... An actual woman that they rope in for some semblance of a romantic arc
Josh Gad as The Movie Star The classy Oscar candidate! Occasionally, a TV adaptation (i.e., The Fugitive) will reach far and beyond the constraints of its source material and actually churn out awards-caliber material. Casting Gad as a subversion of what we view as the epitome of traditional "celebrity" already lends itself to a more poignant and pensive Gilligan's Island than any of us might have anticipated. We're talking Sophia Coppola territory here. A drama that really says something about what it means for a septet of disparate humans to fend for themselves on a desert island.
Also starringGilligan... Michael B. JordanThe Skipper... Christian Bale (he'll gain the weight)The Millionaire... Jean DujardinHis Wife... Marion CotillardThe Professor... Sean Penn — is he still allowed to make movies?Mary Ann... Rooney Mara
Josh Gad as The Professor The sci-fi adventure! Gilligan's Island, less a few anthropomorphic monkeys and some liberties taken with coconut-based technology, was rooted in the laws of our universe. But you can say the same for Scooby Doo and The Brady Bunch, and they went on to face real monsters and impending asteroids in their film incarnations. Sometimes, the step toward the big screen warrants an inclusion of fantasy. Maybe the island isn't just uncharted, but cursed! Or the home of an undiscovered breed of monsters! Or a space-and-time-jumping beacon of electromagnetic energy that stands as an extended metaphor for the plight of the human soul! We can see the Bad Robot logo now...
His Costars:Gilligan... Dave FrancoThe Skipper... Dwayne JohnsonThe Millionaire... Idris Elba — now you're on boardHis Wife... Gina CaranoThe Movie Star... Zoe SaldanaMary Ann... Elizabeth Olsen
Josh Gad as Mary Ann Have you ever seen Head? The strange, cerebral, explosively meta deconstruction of the 1960s musical sitcom The Monkees? Well, we're thinking that the Gilligan's Island form would slink perfectly into these margins. It's surreal, it's ripe for analysis, it even has been suggested to represent the Seven Deadly Sins with each of its characters. Gad's casting as Mary Ann already raises an eyebrow, but a progressive and artful director might well give us something worthy of some deep dives. Charlie Kaufman, make Gilligan's Island about US.
His Costars:Gilligan... Jared LetoThe Skipper... Meat LoafThe Millionaire... Denis LavantHis Wife... Catherine KeenerThe Movie Star... Chloe SevignyThe Professor... Joaquin Phoenix
So which version are you rooting for?
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