Monday, 10 February 2014

Her



In futuristic L.A., Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Pheonix) is a talented writer for a company that writes letters on other people's behalf. Currently going through a divorce and becoming increasingly lonely, Theodore invests in a new invention; an artificial intelligence unit, in this case, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Despite Samantha's lack of a physical presence, the two soon fall in love, sharing a distinct way of viewing the world.

Her is one of the films that has something for almost everyone. It is fundamentally impossible to give this one specific genre; too comedic to be a Sci-Fi, but also too serious to be a comedy. In the vast majority of films, this would be an issue. Here, however, it works in the film's favour. Director and screenwriter Spike Jonze has created an intricate, and unbelievably effective, love story for the modern day, yet so packed with Sci-Fi culture and laying firmly on the foundations of a petty serious concept. Her is insanely multi-levelled.

Whilst Joaquin Pheonix plays Twombly extraordinarily well, the true emotional power of this film lies with Johansson's powerfully effective vocal performance as OS Samantha. From her first moments where she learns her own personality, to her overpowering emotional speeches towards the film's final act, she nailed this role with ease. When I heard Johansson had been cast, I deemed it as torture. Who would want to see a film in which we can constantly hear Johansson's voice, but not be allowed to see her? But, against all odds, this works. Amy Adams also performs well (when doesn't she?) as Twombly's friend, and acts as a strong emotional support through Twombly and Samantha's more difficult moments.

Visually, Her was not at all what I expected. I was aware the film was set ahead of today, but I didn't quite realise it was this far ahead. The visual style of the film, with its props, costumes and interesting use of colour (Her consists mainly of bright oranges, contrasted against pale browns and pinks) is constantly pleasing to the eye, keeping the lighter side of the film persistently present. Another interesting concept is Jonze's personal theory of where video games will go; here they fill the room, characters react and seem to have a mind of their own, and no controller is needed.

This, however, is also one of the film's leading problems. Whilst the story does jitter along at a nice pace, Her is primarily a film of concepts, rather than story. The characters are well defined, and it is constantly interesting, but there are a lot of ideas here that just don't fit together. Twombly's job as a letter writer for people with perhaps less time just doesn't feel right, and whilst Jonze's vision of futuristic video games is unique, it doesn't necessarily need to be in the film. It takes up about ten minutes of screen time that could have focused on Twombly and Samantha exploring themselves and the world around them; undeniably the film's strongest scenes come from their earlier moments together.

But this does not mean Her lacks conviction. From the offset, Jonze knows where he wants to go, and he takes us there. The final twenty minutes show the more serious side to this idea, and it is more than able to pack a powerful emotional punch to almost anyone. The futuristic nature of Her allows Jonze to create not only a handful of multi-dimensional characters, but a world of his own, too. The concept behind this film can be clearly viewed as a social commentary for the direction human relationships are currently heading, but also asks many questions along the way. Could this become a possible outcome for the modern relationship? How much does physical contact matter in the world we currently live in? It isn't likely to take many awards with it (although a screenplay trophy would be nice), but Jonze's vision is clear, and with Her, he has created a film that is not only entertaining, but consistently smart, and with strong social subtext. Is it that bad that I can't wait for his next film already?

To Summarise: Simultaneously funny, smart and serious, Spike Jonze's Her is a powerfully written, character driven tale; a love story for the new age.


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