(directed by Spike Jonze, 2013)
(****+ out of 5)
> Spike Jonez is a friggin’ genius.
. Okay, ETERNAL SUNSHILE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND didn’t work at all for me, but BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, ADAPTATION and the wonderful WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE all clearly demonstrate what a startlingly original voice this unique film artist has. And Spike is at the top of his form here. In the first ten minutes of HER, Spike has more to say about the way we live our lives than lesser directors could fit in an entire film. Here, he is interested in the possible near-future of human relations and how media shapes our identities, in the light of recent cataclysmic upheavals in technology.
. HER starts out with flair and panache, delivering a palate of beautiful, rich colors in a gauzy Hallmark card look that speaks of a prosperous future. Theodore (the always exceptional Joaquin Phoenix) has a job writing personal letters for people who are either too busy or inarticulate to write them themselves. A soulful but lonely single man, Theo still pines for the intimacy he experienced with his estranged wife, who is still waiting for him to sign the divorce papers. Early on, there is a riotously funny scene where Theo’s attempts at phone sex garner him far more than he bargained for. Much of the film is funny while at the same time, kind of sad and wistful. The excellent soundtrack accentuates this beautifully.
. Enter the perfect, sultry, beguiling voice of Scarlet Johansson as OS-1: the first individually personalized artificially intelligent operating system that quickly becomes more than just a virtual personal secretary to Theo. There appears to be chemistry between this being of corporeal flesh and this ever-evolving set of algorithms, expressed in ones and zeroes. Theodore gets something from this program (who dubbed herself “Samantha” after reading a book of baby names in a fraction of a second), that he doesn’t get from real live people. Something is going on here. Is it… could it be… love? Theodore and Samantha begin to “date”. (They are not alone, as it turns. Lots of people are doing it.) But Theo soon finds that he is way out of his league with an arguably sentient being that can evolve in days more than humans could in millennia. Samantha, unfortunately, is just as out of reach as Theo’s ex-wife.
. But wait. Theo has this friend, see? And this friend is the delightful, the delicious, the alluring Amy Adams. Her marriage is on the rocks. Is it possible for Theo to hook up with a real live woman, or will the unattainable ideal of Samantha prove too desirable to resist?
. Wonderful filmmaking! See it.
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