Sunday, February 15, 2015

Her Review

What? Is She Funny Or Something?
Some people spent last night going to parties, or going on dates, but me? I was the coolest dude on the planet, because I spent the evening alone watching the best movie of 2013: Her. Rewatching the film for the first time since it's theatrical release only reaffirmed my praise for this modern masterpiece, which is one of the best artistic depictions of the deeper intricacies of love and human connection ever brought to life.
This all may sound like some sort of ravenous hyperbole, but believe you me, every single frame of this motion picture contains an extraordinary sense of wiseness and power. It manages to achieve such quality through simultaneously embracing complex ruminations on the idea of love and simple cinematic elements like compelling characters, engaging directing and a script as overflowing with wonder as they come. That script is written by Spike Jonze, the filmmaker who also directed this particular feature and shows an incredible thoughtfulness in his work here, especially when crafting the stories protagonist, Theodore Twombly.

That particular character is played by Joaquin Phoenix, his talent merging with a terrific costume (the near-future outfits and environments I'll discuss in greater detail soon, but man does Theodore have a memorable get-up) and excellent writing to create a personality full of layers and depth. Theodore is at once immature, thoughtful, a tortured soul, contemplative, the kind of mixture of emotions that makes him feel like a real human being. Phoenix is adept at conveying the wide gamut of emotions Twombly experiences during this feature, but perhaps one of his best moments is with a sequence after a date with a Blind Date (Olivia Wilde).

He and the girl are kissing after their dinner, when she asks him if he's going to be in a committed relationship with her since she notes that she's at an age where she can't be with someone whose wasting her time . Here, in a state of confusion, Theodore backs out of such an offer, leaving her extremely disappointed. She then notes that he's "a really creepy dude", which leads to one of the numerous moments of the film I found incredibly potent; Theodore's simple response to her statement is to say "That's not true" in the most pitiful statement possible.

Here's a man so alone, so stuck in the past, that such a statement comes off as less of an insult and more as some universal truth he wants to avoid. Phoenix plays that scene and the entire film so damn well, ensuring Theodore remains a captivating character. He's not the only person in the movie to reach such heights of quality though; in fact, Samantha may be an even more compelling personality, even though she's never given a true physical form in the entire story. Played by Scarlett Johansson, Samantha is an artifically intelligent operating system that soon in part of a romantic relationship with Theodore.

Vibrant life soars through each and every word Samantha emits as she discovers more and more of the world. She's such a layered character, one can really tell why Theodore gravitates towards her. Solely with her voice, Johansson gives so much to the role, bringing the scripts extraordinary character to such a level a quality in a way that I can't imagine anyone else doing. Just watch the scene where she tries out a human surrogate with Theodore to simulate an evening together. It's heartbreaking to see Samantha, at this stage in her life, craving things we all take for granted. Watching her use the surrogate simply for the  ability to walk through a door and say she's home to Theodore is powerful to witness ,especially when paired with Phoenix's uncomfortable personality in this particular scene.

Surrounding such characters and a roster of talented supporting actors (Amy Adams, Rooney Mara and Chris Pratt also pop up here and both put in ("shockingly!") great work) is a beautiful world set in the near-future. I love the prominence of color, that isn't just pleasing to the eyes but also can help reinforce the mood of certain scenes; just look at the colors of the background during a pivotal scene towards the end centered on Theodore and Samantha. An incredible level of detail is put into every piece of this world, not just in the aforementioned futuristic outfits, even the elevator buttons have been upgraded in a believable manner.

And let's not forget about the score by Arcade Fire, which was snubbed in Best Original Score at the Oscars last year for God knows why. The score has this unique feel to it that matches the near future environment the film takes place in. Plus, it has the ability to effortlessly evoke numerous moods ranging from suspense to euphoria in constantly effective fashion. And of course, the films Oscar-nominated tune The Moon Song (which should have beat out Let It Go for the award, and that's coming from a dude who loves Frozen!) is a treasure, but added a layer of bittersweetness on this repeat viewing due to me knowing of the scene that immediately follows this particular song.

Really, I could go on and on and just keep rambling about this exceptional film. But as I'm sure you've guessed by now, this is a film I hold in extremely high regard, and one I wish would receive more attention. Many people seem to brush off Her's premise as outlandish, but it's actually a terrific framework for a film that just sticks with you long after seeing it. Truth be told, I think I had the best Valentine's Day out of anyone since I got to re-experience the masterful piece of cinema that is Her.

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