Her – 5 out of 5
Just hearing what Her is about, it’s easy to scoff and walk away shaking your head (and maybe have some fireworks blasting behind you because that would make everything cooler if that happened) but when you add in a great director and some great performances, you should immediately suck back in that scoff and reverse walk your way back to the film (you can leave the fireworks though).
|Now imagine fireworks behind him...|
Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is down in the dumps. He is currently going through a divorce and is barely finding any joy in his friendships or even his job where he writes letters for those who can’t or won’t write their own (because that will exist in the future). One day, Theodore finds out that there is an Artificial Intelligence Operating System for his personal electronics and he jumps at the opportunity for downloading it. Soon, Theodore finds himself connecting with the OS named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) and, eventually, finds himself falling in love. But, just like feeling things for flesh and blood humans, love comes with high times and low times…
|Look at that guy! He's so sad that you can practically hear R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts"|
when you look at this photo.
The fact that this was a Spike Jonze film and the very premise of it all had intrigued me and I was patiently waiting for my opportunity to see it when it would arrive on DVD (believe it or not, writing a movie review blog for funsies doesn’t pay well enough to see every film that comes out in the theaters). After watching it, I found a film that was filled with heart, drama, great acting and was able to take the tired old formula of “boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, and boy/girl relationship ends and a relationship status gets updated and people are commenting like crazy with ‘Wut happened?’”
|"Wut happened? Oh, she totes cheated on me. lol"|
Like anything that Jonze has ever done (with the exception of his work with the Jackass crew—that stuff is awesome for different reasons), the film is a visual treat. Nearly every shot in the film is a hauntingly beautiful or bittersweet morsel of love and pain that easily paints what exact human emotion that is rolling around in the characters. Every single sequence of the film feels like all the elements were meant to be together; the pacing with the editing, the amount of focus (or lack of focus), the music, the use of sound and light, Jonze works all these elements like he’s goddamn Bob Ross and creates a film that makes one feel all the emotions and, often, feel them all at once. To call this film visually stunning would be using the overdone critic buzz-phase to an extent that it can’t accurate describe just how magical this film is on the old eyeballs. Stunning isn’t strong enough and neither is beautiful, so I am forced to make up the word “stuniful.”
|Spike Jonze has an amazing ability to make his cast of beautiful people look extremely |
homely and possibly stinky.
Jonze really outdid himself—and that says a lot because the guy is so talented that I’m convinced he stole his talented from the gods himself because stealing fire would have been too easy (which also goes to show that he had some natural talent before stealing the god-like talent that now supplements his born-in talent). The story is so goddamn unique and such a flip to the usual love story that this fact alone makes the film captivating. Sure, the film offers up an ass-load of commentary about our dependence on technology and there are some jaded people right now who just watched this film and are posting a status about how technology is taking over our lives and, like this movie shows, we’re going to start loving machines and use them for our every whim (and the irony of posting this as a status will be lost on them) and this commentary is only a slice of why this story worked so well. I, personally, was more interested in the way Jonze presented a type of human connection and love through different means. Yes, Theodore is lonely and desperate for companionship and finds it in the form of something that is, essentially, a long string of ones and zeros but seeing a true, honest and deep bond and love (and all the potential heartache that comes with these emotions) given to something that is, initially, incapable of returning it but eventually evolves to understand and reciprocate these concepts and feelings was enthralling. In the end, however, was Theodore’s journey of love that different than any of the ones we have with inanimate objects in our own lives? Well, yeah it is, but think about how many times you’ve referred to loving your smart phone or loving chocolate donuts or screen doors (yeah, some people love screen doors). Theodore just took it a step further than you will with your ranch chicken wrap that you took a photo of at lunch and hashtagged it with “food lover.”
|There was a delete scene were Theodore and Samantha were caught in an awkward|
conversation after Theodore asked her to bookmark a porn site.
As amazing as the story and visuals are, the acting from Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson are simply astounding (and I never really use that word). When you consider the challenge that both actors faced—like Phoenix is, basically, doing all his acing in the form of a “phone bit” and ScarJo is just a voice on the other end—this film really acts as a testament to their individual talents. It’s not easy to do voice acting because you have to express emotion, heart and humanity without the added benefit of facial expressions, body language, or weapons (those are helpful when you are expressing murderous rage). The evolution of Samantha’s character, from being a helpful OS to lover to something infinitely more, was astounding (I used the word twice!) and it was all done through Johansson’s voice and nothing more. You really feel what she is going through as you listen to what she says to Theodore and it was awesome.
|Since I can't get a screen cap of ScarJo for the review (because you can't screen cap a voice)|
I thought I would add a pic of Chris Pratt because he's also in the movie and I
really want to be his BFF. Nothing creepy about that statement.
Finally, it’s no secret that Joaquin Phoenix is a ridiculously talented actor and it really should come as no surprise that he was awesome in the film (he’s so good that he almost made me forget about his bad, emo-Andy Kaufman-like stunt) but seeing him nail his role when a majority of the time he is just speaking to a disembodied voice and watching him really capture the emotion needed really made the film. Phone bits are never easy (even though Bob Newhart made it look so) and the problem with them is that it is really easy to make it sound like there is actually no one on the other end—even if you can hear the person’s voice. Think of how many cheaply made films or television shows you’ve seen where the pacing of a phone call is all off and the exchange comes off unnatural. Sure, the production of Her had the benefit of having Phoenix actually talking to someone on set but that doesn’t make Phoenix’s job any easier because he still had to show that Theodore was going through all the ups and downs that relationships are known for and he had to show it without the benefit of actually having the leading lady in physical form next to him. Despite this, Phoenix captured the same level of emotion that ScarJo delivered with just her voice and he did it all the while making it look like he just went through an entire romcom storyline all over the phone.
|Ear bud technology has been improved so greatly in this near future that they don't just|
come randomly popping out of your ears because you sighed or yawned.
Every fiber of my being says I shouldn’t find Her to be emotional and that I shouldn’t invest in the relationship between a man and a computer-generated voice because those fibers in my being are saying that this is silly and that would be like sympathizing with a man who fell in love with Clippy because Clippy helped him out when he needed help with something but Her is truly incredible and sweet and heartbreaking in a way that I never thought it would be. Thanks to its truly astounding acting (look, I used it a third time!) and its one-of-a-kind story, it brought to life a love story that has all the elements we’re familiar with but was able to breathe fresh life into it by having it involve something that can’t actually breathe.