Wednesday, December 18, 2013

HER - Spike Jonze' Cautionary Tale & Joaquin Phoenix' Perf = Total Brilliance

Her - Movie Review

By Anne Brodie  Dec 18, 2013, 21:09 GMT
Her - Movie ReviewSet in Los Angeles, slightly in the future, "her" follows Theodore Twombly, a complex, soulful man who makes his living writing touching, personal letters for other people. Heartbroken after the end of a long relationship, he becomes intrigued with a new, advanced operating system, which promises to be an intuitive entity in its own right, individual to each user. Upon initiating it, he is delighted to meet "Samantha," a bright, ...more

Spike Jonze’ insightful fantasy is a perfect film for the 2013 / 2014 zeitgeist. Our intimate relationships with our digital devices may tend to obsessive, possessive and exclusionary, and separation is painful. It’s like a lovers’ relationship. Jones takes things an organic step further into the future with Her examining the potential for love and sex between man and machine in ways that are authentic and moving. It feels like a romantic horror thriller.
Joaquin Phoenix is Theodore a man in his thirties, a guy in high pants in a future L.A. who writes letters for people. His visual world is warm and bright, colored orange, yellow and warm wood saturated with daylight. He has just split from his wife (Rooney Mara) and feels unsure of himself but he smiles a lot in an attempt to make the brightness of his environment real in his heart.
He buys a new computer operating system, gives it female voice and name Samantha (Scarlet Johansson) and submits to a grilling about himself and his iOS needs. Samantha aggressively gathers information and his confidence; he’s an easy mark. He thinks of “her” as a benign friend and they develop an easy going, relaxed, intimate and warm relationship. Samantha displays human characteristics, intelligence and intuition that are built in but emotions arise and their bond grows.
That’s new for her.
They share intimate things as a new couple does and before long, the relationship becomes sexual. Samantha tells him she wasn’t programmed for sex but through him has discovered what it is to want someone.
Theo’s neighbors (Amy Adams and Matt Letscher) had what he thought was a perfect marriage but they unexpectedly split up. There was another woman. Theo sees his relationship with Samantha as better, purer and truer. He owns her, she is his operating system and there isn’t much potential for her to cheat on him. Ironically, things get tricky due to the intensity of their relationship. He has awakened in her a program of sexual longing.
Jonze’ compelling story is recognizable in 2013. Maybe there is truth to his story in our future. How does it feel to be separated from a device that does ones bidding, brings interest, comfort and creativity into one’s life? Is it natural or unnatural to love a machine? Can a machine love back? What is real? Is love real?
Jonze’ script is radical, brilliant, riveting and heart breaking. Finally a superior film that deconstructs our relation to the tools we use. This is important stuff for those of us who may use digital devices to the detriment of our human interactions. Jonze shows us the sleeping digital beast waiting to be awakened.
The art direction and costuming is fun and suggestive. It’s the future so the buildings and furnishings are sleek and modern, and take up little space. His condo is huge and airy, but his furniture is tiny. Does he have a problem feeling real in his digital setup? The clothing is retro, spanning the last century, woolen trousers up to here, nice satchel style bags, plain shoes and “square” glasses. the only way to hold on to even an imaginary “real” world experience.
In one shockingly old fashioned sequence, we find Theo wandering in a wintery wonderland and a cottage reminiscent of those idealized cabins of 40’s Christmas movies. The characters are forced by social custom to live in a modern looking world but their rebellion is in the clothes and fantasies of what ‘real life” looks like. Their future lives are torn between the new and the old, and the nostalgia for things they never knew.
Her is a heartbreaker, especially considering that we may find ourselves as a society in Theo’s position at some time and in some degree. The world is changing fast and people are losing touch with one another because of machines, that’s clear.
We are losing touch with ourselves and with nature and there is no going back. It is a frightening glimpse into a sad, lifeless future.
35mm drama
Written and directed by Spike Jonze
Opens Dec 18
Runtime: 120 minutes
Country: USA
Language: English

1 comment:

  1. Maybe it was just me, but the moment that I saw the tagline and premise, I thought less of Hal and more Bianca from "Lars and the Real Girl..."