Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Movie with Abe: Her

Directed by Spike Jonze
Released December 18, 2013

A director’s previous works can often indicate what his or her next project will be like. In the case of Spike Jonze, he made a big impact on the cinematic world with his first two feature directorial efforts, both collaborations with write Charlie Kaufman. “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation” were enormously innovative and creative. His next film was an adventurous adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are,” and now he has, for the first time, penned his own screenplay to present a truly unique look at the world with his newest film, “Her.”

Joaquin Phoenix, who bounced back from an inexplicable and possibly staged meltdown and exodus from society in 2009, is not one to shy away from challenging roles. After portraying an easily-manipulated war veteran brought into a cult in 2012’s “The Master,” Phoenix stars as Theodore, an author of handwritten cards in the middle of a divorce from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). An advertisement for a new artificially-intelligent operating system catches his eye, and Theodore has soon embarked upon a new friendship with Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), his operating system, which gradually turns into something more.

The notion of a film about a man who falls in love with his computer is undeniably far-fetched, but not for Jonze. He tackles the subject matter with a strong respect for and lack of judgment of Theodore, who is portrayed as a nice guy whose inability to function socially is perhaps his only negative quality. Samantha is immediately endearing and charming, and it’s hard not to fall for her right along with Theodore. The film’s main success is that their relationship feels real, and watching it progress is like watching a real-life romance play out.

Phoenix immerses himself in a mesmerizing lead performance, and Johansson is excellent as a voice without a body, constantly excited and intrigued about what she might discover about the world. Both work hard, in a way that appears effortless but is clearly so much more, to make it seem like they are truly developing a connection, one that is far from physical but deeply emotional. Amy Adams and Rooney Mara have key supporting roles, but this film is really about its two main characters, and, most of all, her, the artificially intelligent operating system who at times feels more human than Theodore or anything else in this ambiguously futuristic society. “Her” is a complex, deeply involving film that oozes creativity and produces a thousand fantastic new questions every time it answers one.


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