Jan 16 2014

How Scarlett Johansson is Her’s Best Asset and Biggest Problem

Published by at 12:00 pm under Editorials,Movies

johansson

The 2014 Oscar Nominations were announced earlier today, and though Her snagged both a Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay nod, there was no such honor in the cards for the film’s star, Joaquin Phoenix, or his co-star, Scarlett Johansson.

The latter isn’t particularly surprisingly, given the fact that acting is supposed to be at least half physical. Tough to do when you don’t have a body or hell, are even providing mo-cap like Andy Serkis. Still though, I agree with David that Johansson’s work as the AI Samantha in the film was sublime, perhaps even better than Phoenix.

But with that said, I found myself troubled after watching Her, realizing that despite being the film’s best asset, Scarlett Johnasson’s Samantha was also one of the movie’s biggest problems.

The entire film is about a man’s ability to have a relationship with a virtual construct. An inhuman AI that while intelligent, has no form and is in essence, not a real person. One of the main issues with their relationship presented in the film is Samantha’s complete lack of a physical body, something that troubles her and makes Theodore’s relationship with her more complicated than most.

Her11

But Her presents a fairly unique circumstance for the “voice acting” it requires of Scarlett Johansson. Big name actors doing voicework when they are themselves unseen happens all the time, namely in animated movies looking to use the talents and names of big name stars to draw in an audience.

It’s different in this case, however. In those films, even if the actor themselves isn’t seen, some representation of them is , be they a toy cowboy or cartoon caveman. Though you might hear Tom Hanks or Nicolas Cage if you’re trying to, eventually, your mind and body adjust, and you simply see Woody and Papa Crood, in this case.

The effect is far stranger when you hear a voice your recognize and it’s not assigned to a physical body, in any form. Though Samantha could be considered a phone or a PC or an earpiece, she jumps around between all of those, and you never have one physical object assigned to her. And since you know Scarlett Johansson is in the movie, and can recognize her voice, the image you see in your mind’s eye every time Samantha talks is the gorgeous actress.

johansson2

To me, this sort of defeats the prime purpose of the movie. Had Johansson been replaced with a lesser known actress with a less distinct voice, or perhaps one whose identity was even kept hidden in the marketing for the film, we would have been in the same boat as Theodore. We would have had literally no one to associate with Samantha, and we’d have to be charmed by her bodiless form just as he was. The fact that the audience falls in love with Samantha while seeing Scarlett Johansson in their heads is kind of cheating, and I feel like it could have been a more interesting experience without that constant point of reference.

That said, I’m probably just being dumb, as such a move probably would have resulted in a lesser performance than what we saw from Johansson. The desired effect may have worked, but the movie would probably be worse without Johansson’s (non) presence.

Anyway, I’m curious to see if anyone else thought about this as well as they were watching. Let me know.





More Unreal Posts


8 responses so far

  • Sverrir Sigfússon

    I don’t know. Personally I never caught myself thinking about ScarJo, but rather as a the construct that the film tries to create (and succeeds at creating in my opinion).
    Your point however is a valid one.

    • Adam R. Charpentier

      My experience didn’t match yours, especially since I thought that ScarJo’s voice wasn’t ever coming from a particular direction and never, ever from a speaker, so it felt like she was dubbed in (which, of course, she was) and I never considered her voice as stemming from a real AI.

      • Sverrir Sigfússon

        Well, for me it seemed well established that the film is from Phoenix’s point of view and it’s clear that he’s hearing her from an earpiece, so directionally the audio made perfect sense. To me at least.

  • E. Lee Zimmerman

    Meh. I’m one of those rare exceptions in that I don’t find ScarJo all that gorgeous. Great body, sure, but her charm (so far as I care) has only worked sublimely in LOST IN TRANSLATION and a few of her earlier films; now that she’s all focused on tits’n’ass (or is that tits’n’badass?), I’m having a hard time seeing her as anything more than just that.

    Let me pose this question for debate, though, if anyone wants to take it up: would you have had the same reaction to HER if, say, Jennifer Lawrence had voiced the construct?

    My point, simply, is that I’ve yet to see a picture ScarJo can carry on the merits of her acting gifts alone. And, so far as she likes playing the female badass, I’d happily pit ALIEN’s Ripley against her in anything or Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor and watch as those real actresses hand her ass to her in a frakkin’ purse for safe-keeping.

    I do get your point, though. I have the same problem with Tom Hanks when he voices anything other than characters. In my head, I visualize a goofy Tom Hanks (not the dour serious one he’s sadly become), and that blows the narrative all to sh#t.

  • http://gohomeandaway.wordpress.com/ Anna

    “the fact than the movie audience falls in love w…after seeing ScarJo in their heads…” – nah. I have several guy friends who are, um, rather attached to their Siris and GPSs that they’ve programmed to speak with an Australian accent, and lemme tell ya, they all (= the guys) pretty much see ScarJo in their heads. If there’s no face and body to assign the voice to, you are free to imagine the most gorgeous face and body possible. So why wouldnt you?

    The fact that the audience falls in love with Samantha while seeing Scarlett Johansson in their heads is kind of cheating
    Read more at http://unrealitymag.com/index.php/2014/01/16/how-scarlett-johansson-is-hers-best-asset-and-biggest-problem/#asxmZeJApoqoFek1.99
    The fact that the audience falls in love with Samantha while seeing Scarlett Johansson in their heads is kind of cheating
    Read more at http://unrealitymag.com/index.php/2014/01/16/how-scarlett-johansson-is-hers-best-asset-and-biggest-problem/#asxmZeJApoqoFek1.99

  • Remy Carreiro

    I am with Paul on this one. A no-name would have given us all more freedom of imagination here. Amazing film, regardless.

  • Deaddogseye81

    “Had Johansson been replaced with a lesser known actress with a less distinct voice, or perhaps one whose identity was even kept hidden in the marketing for the film, we would have been in the same boat as Freddie.”

    Who is Freddie?

  • mark miller

    I weirdly never thought of her having a body during the movie. The last film I saw with her in she was doing an accent so I didn’t really make a strong association. I thought she should have made a cameo in the film, at the time I thought maybe as the woman who want’s to be their sexual conduit but that would really drive in the whole imagining her body thing.

Categories

Celebrity Toob

Celebrity Gossip, Pictures, Videos, Net Worth & Bios

Archives