Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’: A ‘Lost In Translation’ Revenge Movie

LOST IN TRANSLATION HER“This is a revenge movie through and through. It’s been 10 years and Spike Jonze is still stewing over it all, retaliating like a 5 year old who mimics all your sentences in a stupid voice because you won’t buy him that Monsters Inc. toy from the Disney Store. Jonze is basically mimicking Lost In Translation in a stupid voice”.

I didn’t think it was possible to ever make Joaquin Phoenix unattractive. Not just unattractive, either, but downright flinching at the screen unattractive. But here we are in 2014 and I’ve finally witnessed it. Spike Jonze threw that fine tamale of a man into a pair of old man chest height slacks for an entire movie and had him rubbing one out to Siri. That’s it, guys. I’m out.

Besides anything else, this is the main reason that I simply can’t rewatch Her – even for the research of this article. No way, no how. I wish I had a less shallow reasoning but I don’t. I just found those outfits far too upsetting. They made my retina ache. So, I’m playing this one by memory. There’s every possibility in the World that my brain has digested and regurgitated that movie into a different, monstrous form than the one that I actually saw, but hell, that’s memory for you. I’m remembering this verbatim. My thoughts were loud and alarmed during that movie. Not only did my retina ache, so did my poor, battered brain as it puked an endless foghorn of outrage from one side to the other like a bottle of piss amongst the audience at a Slipknot gig.

I mean, I get how people can like or even love Her. As concepts go, it’s pretty gutsy. As elaborate pranks, it’s fucking hilarious (I still pine for the Spike Jonze of Jackass. Stick with what you’re good at, son). But I couldn’t concentrate on any of that – not even those fucking terrible pants – because all I could see when I watched Her was Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation.

For those of you who actually have lives (you cool bastards), allow me to catch you up on some basic, trivial celebrity gossip circa 2003. Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze were once married. Coppola made Lost In Translation – a somewhat transparent possibly auto-biographical version of some of her own recent life events – and in it were some not very nice representations of a marriage and a self-absorbed husband who seemed happy to neglect his relationship in favour of his own glowing success. Many people assumed – probably correctly considering what I’m about to talk about next – that Giovanni Ribisi’s irksome husband in that movie was full on 100% based on Jonze.

So yeah, ouch.


What Jonze’s Her basically looks, walks and talks like, from start to finish, is an utterly juvenile response piece to his ex-wife’s movie. There’s entire scenes which eerily mirror those from Lost In Translation. There’s a similar lost, despondency and heartbreak fluctuating between the main characters just like in Lost In Translation, there’s an odd but fulfilling central relationship in both which is never consummated – in the conventional sense, anyway – which helps the protagonist realise some home truths and distract from the splinters of a broken heart. Not to mention the ‘this is a kinda obvious portrait of my very famous ex which you, the very clever audience, will pick up on automatically despite me never confirming the fact to the press’.

I mean, Christ, I could go on and on with this shit. There’s parallel after parallel. Even down to minute details such as Anna Faris portraying a Britney Spears style character who the (defintiely not Jonze) husband of Lost In Translation fawns all over whilst Faris’ real life husband (real life! What a concept) Chris Pratt portrays some kind of bumbling office worker in Her. Not to mention Scarlet Johansson, physically present in one movie, verbally present in the other – like a sexy ghost of relationships past returning for one handed gestures of good time memory whilst you mourn what that same person has supposedly robbed from you.

This is a revenge movie through and through. It’s been 10 years and Spike Jonze is still stewing over it all, retaliating like a 5 year old who mimics all your sentences in a stupid voice because you won’t buy him that Monsters Inc. toy from the Disney Store. Jonze is mimicking Lost In Translation in a stupid voice. A sexy OS voice surrounded by stupid fucking pants.

Now, don’t get me wrong here, I’m not taking sides. Break ups are ugly things and they make two assholes out of the one buttcheek of coupledom, but someone has to be the bigger person somewhere. Lost In Translation had many flaws and it was an asshole move of Coppola in the first instance to portray her then husband in such a juvenile manner, but come the fuck on. Just do what the rest of us mere penniless mortals do and just get drunk, bitch to your friends and flaunt a parade of new lovers around the place like you’re freaking Don Juan. Move on with your life.

But no. Jonze made an entire movie where a man replicates social defence mechanisms against a broken heart by hooking up with a computer system. The protagonist of Her is basically just like a bloke whose retaliation to a fight is by switching on his X-Box, putting a loud headset over his ears to drown out his partner and playing 90 minutes worth of Call of Duty online.


Whilst the lead protagonist of Lost In Translation – undeniably a very raw, sad, self-portrait of Coppola – flits uncomfortably around a strange city, indulging in the kinda-racist ‘well gee, aint this culture and these people from this funny country quaint’ that us white westerners are unfortunately often wanton to do, looking forlorn and confused, the lead protagonist of Her flits around a familiar city which feels no less strange, looking forlorn and confused too. In backdrops full of people (and coincidentally, Jonze chose Shanghai to film his movie in, which whilst it might not be Tokyo is still an odd choice for a film set in LA), both characters are completely alone. It’s a classic on screen version of the sort of relationship dismemberments that happen post break-up in which both parties compare and contrast how much more awful they suffered than the other person.

Oh, what, you felt alone? I FELT MORE ALONE. You coped with the end of our relationship by having a sort of relationship with an older man? I SPENT ALL MY TIME WITH MY COMPUTER. And so on.

Did you guys happen to watch Before Midnight? Because watching Her was like watching that chest-tearingly horrific half hour fight between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy if all of Delpy’s lines got muted.

I do wonder how I’d feel if the roles were reversed. If Her was the movie to come out in 2003 just as Coppola and Jonze were divorcing and if Coppola had released Lost In Translation this past year as a 10-years-bitterness-in-the-making retaliation piece whether I’d feel differently about the whole thing. But I’m not sure I would.


Lost In Translation felt like a personal movie. Not so much an attack on another person, but just as one of those things that you naturally have to get out of you like a heimlich manoeuvre for the mind. For better or for worse, Lost In Translation is without a doubt a movie about Sofia Copploa. But sadly, Her is not a movie about Spike Jonze. He might be there, dressing Joaquin Phoenix up to resemble a Vice Magazine Normcore inspired photoshoot version of himself, but Her is actually just another movie about Sofia Coppola. Which is like spending years proving to everyone that you’re over somebody before getting together with a carbon fucking copy of the person you’re so eager to refute.


5 thoughts on “Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’: A ‘Lost In Translation’ Revenge Movie

  1. I felt the same way watching this movie. Maybe Jonze had been a bit late to the party in getting his thoughts out there, but it doesn’t matter because it still hits a bit harder once you get to thinking of the reality of him and his personal life. Good post!

  2. Pingback: Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’: What I learnt from writing about my ex and talking to strangers online | A Feminist Trash TV & Pop Culture Blog

  3. Curiously I’ve always thought LiT was more about then current Coppola’s boyfriend Tarantino. Shooting a movie in Tokyo (Kill Bill) with a blonde star the audience is supposed to hate (Thurman)?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s