My first review for JumpCut UK actually comes from a third viewing of the Spike Jonze flick ‘Her’. I remember going to see this on opening weekend in a nearby theatre; the place was nearly filled, and I took a friend to go see what I expected to be a cerebral and intelligent story from one of my favorite directors. I was a big fan of Jonze’s previous works in ‘Adaptation’ and ‘Being John Malkovich’, and I was also curious, because this was Jonze’s script, with uncredited help from my favourite writer, Charlie Kaufman. I got far more than I expected. I was blown away, and I still am. It gets better and better every time.
Starring Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore, a lonely writer, who decides to download a new artificially intelligent operating system called Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Theodore incidentally ends up falling in love with this robot-human hybrid, so the AI must be pretty good right? You bet ya! Scarlett steals the show!
Not only does this movie come across as relatable, but even three years after first seeing it, it still resonates with me on a personal level. The emotions and vulnerabilities that Theodore and Samantha both go through are insanely applicable, and important to think about. The movie’s romantic yearning, present in Theodore’s situation, is so well done this movie will make you want to call your ex. The best part about Jonze’s direction, which has always been one of his best attributes as a director, is that he lets the audience into his character’s heads, and he shows it subtly but surely. The score by Arcade Fire also elevates the emotion throughout the film, because as the scenes take place, there always seem to be a perfect undertone of sound that matches what is going on. It really struck a chord with me anyway (worth it).
The acting in this movie is incredible. Phoenix’s character has so many opportunities to become creepy, but Phoenix plays it with such nuance and tenderness that his character comes off as sweet and quirky, which makes for an extra compelling protagonist. Joaquin Phoenix, to me, is an actor that goes unappreciated, because he is so transformative and expressive, and I feel he got majorly snubbed in not winning the big awards for this movie. That said, a man playing an emotional and sensitive person that struggles with his environment and social interaction, is no match for a chick-flick star transforming into a cowboy with AIDS. In ‘Her’, the supporting roles really help keep the audience entertained with other side stories too, as well as helping the audience to empathise with Theodore’s problems. The standout for me was Rooney Mara, mostly because the subplot she is involved in is easily the most heavy and dramatic. Also look for a well-used Chris Pratt, whose funny and optimistic attitude plays well here.
All of the other filmmaking aspects were excellent. It doesn’t feel like you’re watching a movie, rather that the audience is actually in the room with the characters. The cinematography is breathtaking, capturing the beautiful landscapes of Shanghai and LA, popping with bright, dazzling colours that please the eyes and fill the senses. The score is sweeping and flows amazingly, never over-used or under-used. The story is well paced and features excellent moments of comedy, my favorite being the video game with the alien child, as well as powerful moments of heart-wrenching drama.
The only flaws that I could pick out in the movie, is that the ending isn’t as satisfying as it could be, and that there could’ve been more time given to the sub-plots so that when the final punch came, it would’ve had more impact. It’s actually impressive that the film turned out as good as it did, with a recast of the major role of Samantha jumping from Samantha Morton to Scarlett. The cut Jonze had originally made was 150 minutes long, including extra scenes with Chris Cooper, but fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your opinion), it was edited down to 126 minutes.
With how much I loved watching this movie, I personally wish I could have all 150 minutes, but 126 will suffice. This is, out of all the films I have seen, my favorite film of the 2013 release year, and I hope this eventually becomes a modern classic.
Director: Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara