Saturday, 15 February 2014

Thinking of "Her" - Film Review

I was treated to a trip to the cinema on Valentines Day, in a strictly non-romantic capacity, by a guy I used to work with. It was so nice to not feel any pressure to make the day special in any way, for the first time in 5 years! There was definitely a feeling of just doing what felt fun and good at the time, without worrying about anything else. Snatching at happiness in a big city. This became a bit of a theme for the night when we went to see Spike Jonze's Her

Having seen the trailer a couple of times I was intrigued by the film. The concept - in case you don't know - is a love story between a writer called Theodore and his computer operating system. Imagine Siri on your iPhone had a really hot voice, its own evolving personality and was always a pleasure to talk to, instead of snarky and infuriating.
At first the idea seems insane - how could you fall in love with something that doesn't physically exist? But as the film demonstrates, our life is increasingly led by technology. I mean, who hasn't had phone sex before? Really, a long distance relationship is not dissimilar to the one portrayed in Her.

And it is portrayed so, so beautifully. I was increasingly blown away by Jonze's clean and warm vision of the future. No doubt a very idealistic image of LA; shining streets alight with soft tones of pastel blues, pinks and oranges, like an ethereal sunset. It makes the future look very appealing, fresh and breezy, and yet close enough to our own reality that it feels tangible, within reach. It brings our reliance on technology to the forefront very effectively - here is a not-so-distant future where people bond with computers and human interaction is a fading custom. 

It's hard to work out whether Jonze is criticising or praising the impact technology has on our lives. As his first solo screenwriting credit, this is a tour-de-force for him. There is the perfect amount of humour infused into the story, lifting the material from becoming too heavy - the "choke me with the cat" scene and cheeky video game character are particular standouts. Coupled with the more poignant and insightful moments in the film - for example, Amy Adams's, "I decided to allow myself... joy!" - and non-judgemental reactions to Theodore's um... sexual orientation? This acceptance of unconventional relationships is, I feel, very apt at the moment, with the prejudice people are suffering from in Russia and other cultures stuck in the past.  

Getting personal, I really identified with Theodore. As he struggles to move on from a long, failed marriage, he has distanced himself from the real emotions and connections to other people. The happiness he finds in his operating system Samantha is doomed from the beginning, but he needs it to move on. Now I'm not about to start a romance with my phone, but I am in a place where I want to experience all the happiness I can get my hands on, whether it be long or short term.

Joaquin Phoenix is the heart and soul of this film. As he spends most of his time talking to a chunk of metal in his ear, he is the focal point of almost every shot. His obvious affection and feeling for the character seeps through in the deep emotion emanating from every twitch of his eyebrow, every small inclination, every dazzling, euphoric smile. I was completely enraptured by his performance and so grateful he has come back to the screen!

Overall, the message I took away from the film is this: happiness does not always come in the form you expect - but when it does seize it, enjoy it and don't let anyone tell you it's wrong. And upgrade your phone (kidding).

Simply put, you need to see this film. Her has definitely set the bar high for 2014.