Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: I Can't Help But Love "Her"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 40 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

Her (2013)
Running time:  126 minutes (2 hours, 6 minutes)
MPAA – R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity
PRODUCERS:  Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze, and Vincent Landay
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Hoyte Van Hoytema (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Jeff Buchanan and Eric Zumbrunnen
COMPOSER:  Will Butler and Owen Pallett
MUSIC:  Arcade Fire
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson (voice), Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Matt Letscher, Olivia Wilde, Gracie Prewitt, Laura Kai Chen, and Brian Cox (voice)

Her is a 2013 romantic drama and science fiction film from writer-director Spike Jonze.  The film focus on a lonely writer who develops an unlikely relationship with the new operating system he bought for his computer and hand-held device.

Her is set in an indeterminate near-future and focuses on Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely, introverted man.  Theodore works for, a business that writes heartfelt, intimate, and deeply personal letters for people who cannot write such letters.  Theodore is struggling with an impending divorce from his wife, Catherine Klausen (Rooney Mara), who was his childhood sweetheart.

To help get his life in order, Theodore buys a new operating system (OS) from Element Software.  This OS is an artificially intelligent operating system that is designed to adapt and evolve.  Taking on the persona of a human female, the OS names itself “Samantha” (Scarlett Johansson).  [Of note: actress Samantha Morton originally provided the voice of the OS, before Jonze replaced her, with her consent.]  Her ability to learn and to grow psychologically fascinates Theodore.  Samantha and Theodore bond over discussions about love and life, and Samantha is constantly available and is designed to meet his every need.  She is always curious about Theodore and is interested in him and his life; she is supportive and does not make demands... at least for a while.  Theodore is in love with her, but, as she changes, can Theodore sustain this relationship?

Her is one of the best movies of 2013, and, after watching it, I can certainly see why some thought it was the best picture of 2013.  I think what Her does best is to evoke feelings in the viewer; it is as if director Spike Jonze wants viewers to feel his movie.  I did.

There is a lot that goes into making a special movie, and several people made this movie one of the best.  In Her,  Joaquin Phoenix does not give one of his best or most adventurous performances, but his subtle and nuanced take on a puppy-love struck, lonely man is endearing.  He carries this picture, as well as the viewers' expectations, so his performance is so good that even if it isn't his best, it is still better than most by other actors.

The film's score by Will Butler and Owen Pallett is oddly compelling and queerly futuristic without feeling too far-flung.  The score was apparently performed by the Grammy-winning band, Arcade Fire, of which Butler is a member.  Hoyte Van Hoytema's gorgeous cinematography is curiously in sync with the score, and it also seems like it belongs to another day.  In fact, the art direction and set decoration helps to maintain that almost futuristic, edge-of-tomorrow vibe.

The foundation of Her is Spike Jonze's screenplay, which earned him an Academy Award.  It is deeply romantic, heartfelt, and sentimental; it is like a romance novel without melodrama and schmaltz.  The writing is thoughtful and provocative, one of the best examples of a screenplay that takes on science fiction without being taken over by sci-fi genre trappings.

I often wonder if science fiction is still relevant; some of it seemed clueless about the lives that many people lived in the late 20th century.  I don't know how much science fiction can address pertinent issues in the early 21st century, but I know one science fiction film that did.  I think that by plot, by the issues it tackles, and by what it depicts, Her is relevant now and will be in the future.  With Her, Spike Jonze does not do science fiction prediction.  Instead, he addresses the unchanging aspects of humanity as it grapples with a changing world and evolving environment.  What a way to bring new life to the love story.

9 of 10

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

 2014 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Writing, Original Screenplay” (Spike Jonze); 4 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year (Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze, and Vincent Landay), “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score” (Will Butler and Owen Pallett), “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song” (Karen O-music and lyrics and Spike Jonze-lyrics for "The Moon Song"), and “Best Achievement in Production Design) “K.K. Barrett-production design and Gene Serdena-set decoration)

2014 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Spike Jonze); 2 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical” and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Joaquin Phoenix)

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

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