To consider Scarlett Johansson’s voice-only work in Spike Jonze’s newest film Her as a legitimate option in the awards race would have been a mighty high order to begin with. No non-traditional performance, be it voice over acting, or motion capture, or anything lying between has yet been acknowledged by the Academy in its history. However, since the acclaimed romantic dramedy premiered as the closing film selection at the New York Film Festival last October with particular critical plaudits reserved for Johansson’s invisible performance, that’s been one of the more interesting curiosities of the season. The wind in that sail must be at least partially deflated with the news that the performance appears ineligible for this years Golden Globe Awards.
According to The Wrap, who broke the story yesterday, it would appear that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the voting branch that presides over the Golden Globes, have disqualified Johansson’s performance as the Siri-inspired operating system named Samantha, a victim of a rule that dictates that voice over performances aren’t deemed eligible for acting prizes. The HFPA have followed that rule, though interestingly, awarded Robin Williams a special award for his memorable voice-over performance in the Disney film Aladdin. Johansson, who has been nominated for four Golden Globes throughout her career, still a shot for a nomination however, as her acclaimed Gotham nominated performance in Don Jon is eligible for the musical or comedy Globe section.
Her, written and directed by Jonze, is set in the not too distinct future and revolves around a sad sack writer (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls for Samantha. The smokey-voiced Johansson, who replaced actress Samantha Morton after production had already wrapped, has already received a fair amount of praise for her performance. Scott Foundas in his Variety review wrote of the performance, “But it’s Johansson who pulls off the trickiest feat: She creates a complex, full-bodied character without any body at all. Detached from her lethally curvaceous figure, the actress’ breathy contralto is no less seductive, but it also alights with tenderness and wonder as Samantha, both here on Earth and up there in the Cloud, voraciously devours literature, philosophy and human experience.”
The reaction inspired distributor Warner Bros. to even tout Johansson as Best Supporting Actress contender, a notion given legitimacy by a groundswell of positive online reaction and her recent victory at the Rome Film Festival, where Johansson won the Best Actress prize. The case of Johansson’s performance in Her seems akin to reaction Andy Serkis received for his motion capture work in films like The Lord of the Rings, King Kong and, most recently, Rise of the Planet of the Apes or Ellen DeGeneres received for her voice over in Finding Nemo. The debate wages on over what exactly to do with performances such as these, and likely will continue to do so for some time. In the meantime, Her opens on December 18th, where we all decide for ourselves the merits of Johansson’s performance.