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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Her Movie Review


Spike Jonze, the director of "Her", has had an unusual career arc. He has spent the bulk of his time directing video shorts and documentaries, while occasionally popping up in something near the mainstream of feature film. His "Being John Malkovich" is one of my personal favorites and "Adaptation" was another of his films that I enjoyed. Both of those films were written by the brilliant and quirky Charlie Kaufman. Jonze's "Where the Wild Things Are" is his only other foray into feature writing. I am a little late to the show for Jonze's "Her", but according to some critics, it is a landmark film that will stand as something special for eternity. I respectfully disagree.

Set in the near future, in a nebulous city, "Her" is Jonze's lamentation and celebration of technology and how it has both positively and negatively impacted our lives. "Her" is Scarlett Johansson, or rather it is her voice. She is the co-star of perpetually enigmatic Joaquin Phoenix, who here is Theodore Twombly, a talented writer of letters for others who toils in relative anonymity, like most of us do.

Twombly is separated and only the signing of papers is left in the process of his somewhat amicable divorce. He mostly sits at home and plays video games. Because this is set in the future, these games are a couple of generations from what we currently have access to. He comes across an ad for a new operating system that serves as a personal companion. It is a super-duper advanced operating system that learns the person that purchases them and becomes a close friend, in this case, a lover, although with obvious physical limitations. Twombly's special friend names herself Samantha.

Twombly and Samantha become very close, and in some aspects, this is Twombly's first real relationship. He carries her around in his pocket so that she can see the world through his eyes. Soon, they are soul mates, and he tells all of those close to him about his new love. They even double-date. It is at times very sweet and at other times very sad. You feel his joy, but can't help thinking he is a pathetic nut job.

One thing that bothered me about "Her" was that Twombly, who was not a particularly successful man, and who is portrayed as a sort of every man, resides in an apartment that in today's market would be worth millions of dollars. I understand that this is a science fictionish piece, but that made no sense to me. I also understand that I have an issue with getting caught in what I think is a failure of reality when I should not even be thinking about it.

"Her" is a good film, if for no other reason than it is different from anything else in memory. Kudos for that. However, that is not enough for me to heap praise of the sort I am hearing from others. Yeah, this is a message movie, but the message will only be a revelation to you if you have been living in a cave for the last ten years. "Her" might be cool, but its entertainment value is tepid, rather than spectacular. Maybe I just don't get "Her". Then again, I haven't gotten lots of hers.

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