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 Spike Jonze's Her

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: Spike Jonze's Her   Mon May 12, 2014 1:02 am

It's hard to believe that in a 25 year career making music videos and short films that Spike Jonze has only directed 4 feature films. After a multitude of music videos, some of what are brilliant, he got his big break in the cinema with Being John Malkovich (1999), a very offbeat comedic fantasy which had a very original central concept. For his next film, he made Adaptation (2002), which was supposed to have been a straight forward adaptation of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief, however screenwriter Charlie Kaufman had suffered a horrendous case of writers block trying to adapt the book, and it turned into a film about Kaufman's struggle to adapt The Orchid Thief, again it won critical plaudits with awards. Jonze was now recognised as a major talent in cinema, but audiences had to wait another 7 years before his next film, Where the Wild Things Are (2009), adapted from Maurice Sendak's beloved book. It was a brilliant film, and it was a family film done his way. It wasn't commercial, but it had a quirky and likeable charm about it's bones, needless to say there won't be another film like it. As his follow up, Jonze also wrote this film, and it's a love story, but not any ordinary love story, this a Spike Jonze love story, and it's a parable and indictment on humanity's relationship with technology. It's a warm and quirky science fiction film dressed up as a low-key, ambient love story. Her is not a film for everybody, but it's a different and original love story, with a good cast and a clever script.

Set in 2025, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) works for a company that writes passionate and heartfelt letters from people who are unable or unwilling to write them. Theodore is a lonely yet passionate man who has just gone through an unhappy divorce with his former partner Catherine (Rooney Mara), who was his childhood sweetheart as well. The divorce has left Theodore in a rut, and he has become secluded and introverted from life. In the meantime, Theodore has bought an operating system with artificial intelligence, Theodore gives the OS a female personality, and she (Scarlett Johansson) calls herself Samantha. She's always there when Theodore needs someone to talk to, and she has a bright and friendly personality. On a suggestion from Samantha he tries dating Amelia (Olivia Wilde). Although the date well, Amelia wanted him to commit to a full time relationship there and then, he's hesitant and they go their separate ways. As well as Samantha, Theodore is able to find solace in his old college friend Amy (Amy Adams) and her husband Charles (Matt Letscher). However, Theodore and Samantha's relationship goes from a casual friendship into an intimate and almost sexual relationship, even though nothing physical happens. Now Samantha wants to know more about love...

It's a different kind of romance film, but Spike Jonze doesn't make normal films, it's a film about the complexity and depth of relationships. But it's very ambient, and it's vision of Los Angeles to come is an almost low-tech one, (parts of it were shot in Shanghai, which has near-futuristic architecture), and it's a future where the only vehicles are trains. It's not a noisy future either, it's a very quiet future where everyone is connected to whatever pieces of technology they carry around with them. It's beautifully filmed by Hoyte van Hoytema, who lensed Let the Right One In (2008), The Fighter (2010) and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), who gives it a gentle feel with it's soft hues and warm colours. The set design by Jonze regular K. K. Barrett doesn't overdo the futuristic stuff, and keeps it low-key and focused, even the technology of 2025 isn't far removed from the technology from what we're using today. Plus it's topped off with an ambient and almost gentle score by Canadian rock group Arcade Fire, who Jonze has done music videos for, which adds to the mood. But, the script by Jonze is original, knowing and it's clearly from the heart, dating and relationships are one of the most difficult things in any relationship, and Jonze captures the awkwardness, the passionate parts, the physical parts and the heartbreak of breakups. Jonze won an Oscar for this.

Jonze got a brilliant cast together for the film, led by Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore, and it's a complex character, and you could almost see it as an alter-ego of Jonze. Theodore is a shy, nerdy sadsack with scruffy hair and pastel coloured clothes. It's a difficult part, as he's carrying the film and going through nearly every human emotion. It's a showcase of what a good actor Phoenix is, and he's well suited for this film, it's a very restrained performance, however that's what Theodore is. But, his co-star is one we can't see, Scarlett Johansson's Samantha is a seductive and friendly presence, and even though we never see Samantha, you can feel her, which is a weird thing, like an entity. She's very friendly, but there's something scary about Samantha as this is the way technology could go in years to come. The film is rounded out with a good supporting cast, including Amy Adams as Theodore's college friend Amy, who is ideal for Theodore if only she wasn't married. Rooney Mara make an impressionable appearance as Theodore's former wife Catherine who loved Theodore until they split, and she's non plussed at the idea of him having a relationship with an operating system, plus Olivia Wilde has a memorable cameo as Amelia who looked like an ideal partner for Theodore, but she comes on too strong.



It's a different kind of romance film, everything about the film is different, but it has a charm and compelling and engaging quality about it. Her has heart and brains about it, so it's not a romance film for the masses, but for those who want to be left with questions rather than answers. It's a difficult film to categorise, but it does share themes on the difficulties and heartbreaks of relationships with Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004), done by Jonze alumni Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman, and that touched on futuristic technology that might be just around the corner, but the technology there was of a destructive nature, then again, the way technology is going, it might end up being our downfall, so there's something of a dark message behind Her, a parable on artificial intelligence becoming more intelligent than humans. Maybe it's a cautionary tale too, but don't let that spoil the film for you. It's a very moving and sweet film on human emotions. It could be seen as a bit gimmicky by some, but it's original, as all of Jonze's feature films have been up to this point. It'll be interesting to see what he tackles next, as he's tackled a few genres up to now, and he has a few projects on the go, but hopefully we shouldn't have to wait too long until his next offering comes around, it's a significant and honest film, not for everyone, but it's well worth a look.
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PostSubject: Re: Spike Jonze's Her   Mon May 12, 2014 2:51 am

This never reached my local cinema  Crying or Very sad 

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PostSubject: Re: Spike Jonze's Her   Mon May 12, 2014 1:44 pm

Yeah, I had to go to Penrith to see it. Neutral
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