|UK Release Date||14th February 2014|
|Starring||Phoenix, Adams, Johannson|
|Reviewed||13th February 2014|
Her: Spike Jonze’s heavenly, poetic, charming, dolorous and yet jubilant love story has more heart than most 'romantic' films of late - it very nearly made me as happy as Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind and that is saying something. Even though we are pretty anti Valentines here at BS Towers it’s a pretty darn perfect Valentines Day movie, certainly better than last year's pick, A Good Day To Die Hard, anyway.
Theodore Twombly (what a name) is a sad sack. He has multiple playlists called 'melancholy songs' and has recently (well not that recently) been through a break up that he still hasn’t recovered from. From what we can pick out of Spike Jonze’s sparse (in a good way) script, like the way a homeless person sometimes can’t explain how they got there, he has gone from being a balanced human with a good job and a beautiful girlfriend to a lonely writer of beautiful pseudo letters indulging in phone sex with strangers with some VERY strange fantasies and slowly becoming more and more secluded. In this hipster world set in the not too distant future it seems disappearing into a world where contact with humans becomes a distant memory is an easy and viable future. Theodore works crafting the aforementioned letters for people who have writer’s block. He is extremely talented and takes pride in his work but it is a fake world, sending words of love by pretending to be someone else. Theodore is slipping into a lonely void.
Enter Theodore’s shiny new Operating System, Samantha. From the beginning the two of them hit it off and the connection both surprises and delights both of them (seems a future OS can learn feelings. Gulp) and soon escalates into what can only be described as a romantic relationship. This is a world where being involved with your OS, although still abhorrent to some, namely Theodore’s ex girlfriend Catherine, is fairly commonplace and acceptable in a society where human contact is on the decline.
In this study on loneliness Theodore is our guide and the terrifying part is that he was once a fully functional part of the world. One break up and a lost job and here he is living in a world where his best friend is a foul-mouthed little alien from an interactive game. Admittedly the alien is pretty fucking cool but come on, that’s scary. Theodore does have one flesh and blood playmate thought in the wonderful shape of Amy Adams’ Amy who lives downstairs. Amy is also a consummate hipster who makes videos of her mother sleeping and lives with her overbearing husband. They offer Theodore golden nuggets of advice such as ‘eat your fruit and juice your vegetables!’ Invaluable stuff. There was a past relationship between Amy and Theo and it’s clear from the start that these two should be together. When Amy breaks up with her husband she also starts to become attached to her OS and understands Theodore’s predicament with Samantha. Two lonely souls looking for shelter.
Theodore and Samantha’s relationship moves quickly and soon Samantha is the centre of his life but as with many relationships, one ‘person’ starts to outgrow the other. There is a fantastically powerful scene where Theodore suddenly can’t get connected to Samantha, she’s offline and the panic is palpable. The fears that it would be that easy to just ‘switch him off’. It’s powerful stuff and a scene that makes one wholeheartedly buy into the ‘love’ story between Samantha and Theodore. This film is made up of golden little moments just like that one that allow us to relax and buy into this hyper realised universe.
Joaquin Phoenix is a big part of why this film manages not to veer off into a smug world of pallid hipsterdom. It’s a rare actor that can inhabit the outer edges but still make an audience empathise. Phoenix has proven he can do that with far more extreme characters like Johnny Cash but he injects Twombly with a little boy sweet sadness that you can’t help but fall in love with. Even when he’s jacking off to Kristen Wiig’s bizarre phone sex voice, it’s somehow still likeable – I know that sounds crazy but just see it and you’ll understand. It’s also a brilliantly funny scene.
Amy Adams is so sweet, beautiful and understated as Amy and I would have much rather have seen her nominated for this role than American Hustle. It’s a gorgeous performance. Olivia Wilde is has a great cameo as a cruel first date for Theodore post breakup and Rooney Mara is gorgeous as first love Catherine. And so to Johannson. Much had been said about if she would get an Oscar nomination for the role as the voice and I must say I’m glad she didn’t, the role doesn’t merit that. However, she is absolutely perfect as Samantha and really can’t think of anyone else who could pull it off with the aplomb she did, we 100% buy into Samantha and think of her a person with thoughts and feelings.
Her is an alluring film, it’s like inhabiting a world entirely made up of achingly hip people and locations ripped straight out of Wallpaper magazine. The production design by KK Barrett, Jonze’s long-time collaborator is pitch perfect, rich in colours and subtly painting a slightly futuristic Pantone friendly world. This is Jonze’s first sole credit for a full-length script and makes one wonder why he hasn’t done it before? It is full of humour and beauty and I for one am keeping everything crossed that it wins some screenwriting awards at the very least.
It’s a wonderous magic trick Jonze has pulled off here. He’s managed to craft something that could so easily have slipped into being irritating and self-congratulatory but it’s not. It’s romantic, old fashioned - even in all its modernity, sweet, hopeful, honest and charming and well, just downright lovely. Single or just in need of some life affirming romance? Ask someone to see it this Valentines, it might just make for your own romantic story one day.
Check out the trailer here.