Tuesday, February 4, 2014



Written & Directed
Spike Jonze

     I love when a film grows on you after you have seen it. It swirls inside your head and its ups and downs come to life. That is not to say that during the viewing it was not hitting with that "this is something special" feeling, but the pleasures and peculiarities of the film are enhanced with continued thought and appreciation. This is what Spike Jonze's Her did for me. A romantic tale of longing, love and companionship in the future, 20 to 50 years hence in Los Angeles, that is so simple, but packed with multiple layers and textures. A film that speaks to the smart phone and tech savvy generations lack of communication skills, and revels in personability and a desire for love and meaning.
     Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely greeting card writer going through a troubling divorce. He writes cards for people that do not have the time or ability to do so. This is a profound statement that Jonze makes about the lack of connection we have with each other. Twombly is somewhat introverted, playing video games at home and going on odd, unsuccessful blind dates. He is still longing for his soon-to-be ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). He appears to be in denial of the reality of the divorce and does not feel the need to share with anyone. But, when a new Operating System - OS1 is uploaded to his computer and all of his devices, he builds a passionate, real-life romance with the voice of the system.
     Weird, correct? Not in the hands of Jonze. He softly grows this relationship between Twombly and the OS1 voice Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Twombly falls in love with the voice of his computer systems. They build a relationship where they go through all the phases of a normal, human relationship, but with just one physical being involved. The early finding each other out phase and getting through any personal insecurities, especially with Samantha going through all of Theodore's emails, files and hard drive. The phase where the couple, yes, the couple, begin to question where this is going and what they what to be. She was initially suppose to be an assistant, but becomes so much more. She fills the hole that Theodore as been missing since his separation.
     Jonze has crafted a poignant film on love, loneliness and the changing societal tendencies towards human connection. It questions how will society be as technology keeps growing and advancing. Many times throughout the film people are talking to their computers or smart(er) phones and avoiding all human interaction. I mean, Theodore writes greeting cards file with poetry for people. It is a brilliant point and only advances the story between the two lovers. There is sex, passion, arguing and fear. The film is so touching in its portrayal of a relationship and the meaning of connection. The relationship begins to fall when that obvious barrier of physical touch becomes an unavoidable reality. They even try a surrogate, but that only complicates matters even more and makes for an uncomfortable situation. Samantha wants to know what physicality is like and Theodore does all he can to describe it. The film is so good and so poignant.
    Enough cannot be said about the vulnerability and sincerity portrayed in Joaquin Phoenix's performance. I have never seen this fantastic, great actor play someone like this before. His pulled up pants, glasses and odd little mustache fit the character of Theodore so brilliantly and are bright to life with such humanity, sadness and reality by Mr. Phoenix. Theodore might be one of most sensitive male characters ever put on screen and Phoenix is a an absolute knockout in the role. Scarlett Johannson, who gives her best performance ever, even though she has no physical screen time, is sensual, charming and full of all the nuances of real human interaction. I though it was funny when the possibility of her getting awards attention for just her voice was being talked about, but she is so worth it. Amy Adams, who plays Theodore's friend Amy, is wonderful as always, and turns from the aforementioned Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt and Olivia Wilde are fantastic as well.
     Spike Jonze is all about quality and the creative process. He has assembled a brilliant crew of collaborators to work on this film and the pillow-soft lighting from Hoyte Van Hoytema (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) is perfectly fitting. His lensing never focuses on the futuristic Los Angeles, but on the people residing in it. We see the future, but it does not outshine the story or individuals in it. The score from Arcade Fire is great as well, never overpowering the narrative, but building emotion and poignancy within each scene.
     Spike Jonze can do no wrong. A talented writer-director who as conceived a story that focuses on human connection and lack thereof, as well as the emotional passages through love and relationships. This is almost a straightforward fantasy tale told with honesty and void of all the classical and annoying Hollywood cliches. Her is something very special. A film that is flat out fantastic. A love story that is not over-the-top, but full longing, companionship and sensitivity. Jonze has made a film for the tech heavy, isolated generation of introverts that shows we still need connection and romance. A brilliant film form a brilliant artist.

Picture credit by IMDB.

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