Although bankrolled by Absolut Vodka and officially billed as "a love story in an Absolut world," the new Spike Jonze short, I'm Here, is not a vodka commercial. It's more of an implication: that a spirit long associated with sad-eyed old Russian intellectuals enduring hopeless lives in dusky hinterlands may now also be associated with sad-eyed young British robots enduring bittersweet romance in dusky Los Angeles.
Just what is it with robots and vodka nowadays? Once you've been reminded of its corporate financier, it's hard not to see I'm Here as some kind of riposte to that creepy-sexy SVEDKA Vodka "R U Bot Or Not" campaign, featuring the so-called "SVEDKA_Grl spokesbot" designed by Stan Winston, who also made life-like models for Iron Man and the Terminator films, among many others. Well, whether or not that really was the Absolut ambition, they hired the right guy.
Jonze has his own brand to curate here, with the same crafty synthesis of practical models and computer effects that he so poignantly deployed in Where the Wild Things Are, and the same whimsical, rueful tone. His secret weapon is the increasingly and deservedly ubiquitous actor Andrew Garfield, whose other recent crypto-sci-fi variations on sensitive lad-dom include Never Let Me Go and The Social Network. In I'm Here, Garfield stars as a mild-mannered library assistant, a robot, who finds himself in what can be described (without giving anything away) as an unfortunately self-destructive relationship. The object of his affection -- which is putting it rather directly, as she's a robot too -- is played by Resident Evil regular Sienna Guillory. Also, there is pretty much the perfect song for bittersweet robot romance in dusky Los Angeles, by Aska Matsumiya.
If you think this seems like the kind of thing McSweeney's should release on DVD with a handsome book and a CD to go with it, that's great, because they have, and you're invited to the release party at the Roxie tonight. One way or another, it'll be a night for distilled spirits.
I'm Here plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 30, 2010, at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco, with a live musical performance by Aska Matsumiya. For tickets and information, visit roxie.com.