"Her" (2013)- Movie Review

Written and Directed by Spike Jonze
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson and Amy Adams

‘A Breath of Fresh Air’

You rarely ever see movies that are original. Most borrow ideas from better films, but offer no surprises for audiences. Others are ruined by predictable events or a story that you’ve always been familiar with.

Normally I find it easy to differentiate one film from the other, but over the last few years it has become nearly impossible. From unnecessary sequels of big-budget franchises to pointless remakes of classic movies, films have lost a sense of creativity. As a result, no longer is going to the theater a meaningful experience. For the average movie-goer, it is usually a strict time-pass, just an excuse for them to have pop-corn.
If there’s any film this year that definitely isn’t, however, it’s Spike Jonze’s “Her”. Highly original, insightful and unique, it is a beautifully directed film that surprised me on many levels. Despite being held together by a rather odd story involving a man falling in love with his computer, the movie is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life. In other words, it is like a breathe of fresh air in a year filled with disposable movies. Do you have any idea how rare that is? Movies tend to originate from the recycling bin. However, every now and then comes a film that sparks hope for the filmmaking industry and in the case of “Her”, there are many strong reasons why it’s one of the best movies of 2013.

To begin, not many directors today have the gift and talent for creating original movies but Spike Jonze is an exception. A filmmaker with a unique style, Jonze has always been known for turning the silliest of stories into relevant commentaries on our world today.

With “Her”, it seems at a first glance as if the director is tackling the topic for a light-hearted comedy, but what’s jaw-dropping is that he isn’t. Although the relationship between a lonely man and a talking machine seems to be the idea for a funny movie, surprisingly that isn’t the case with “Her”. It may be hard to believe that a story this bizarre can be grounded in reality, yet unexpectedly enough it is. Despite it’s absurd nature, “Her” has the type of story you can easily see happening for real and it is all a result of Spike Jonze’s clever guidance as a director.

Starring Joaquin Phoenix in the leading role, “Her” follows the life of a lonely, socially introverted man in search for love after a divorce. When he buys an operating system, the two fall deeply in love in a world overtaken by technology.

In terms of inspirations and influences, “Her” is thoroughly original and unlike any film I’ve ever seen. Although it’s insights on the relationship between humans and technology reminded me of 2004’s action-thriller “I, Robot”, I found it to be surprisingly relevant for a science-fiction film. It’s a tremendously thought-provoking movie created in the inventive style of Spike Jonze.

The performances are excellent, the direction is fantastic and the screenplay is phenomenal. “Her” is one of those rare movies you can’t stop thinking about days after you watch it.

Like I previously mentioned, it is hard to not gape in awe at how Spike Jonze has made this movie. It is definitely not easy to add a sense of realism into a story in which a human falls in love with a computer, but what’s baffling is that the director pulls it off.

In recent years, no film has deserved an Oscar for Best Screenplay as much as this. Uplifted by sharp, witty, and thoughtful dialogue, what’s jaw-dropping is how the script makes you care about the relationship between a lonely introvert and his phone. Yes, if you think that sounds creepy you’re not alone, but astonishingly it works extremely well. The dialogue takes the film to another level, and that is quite a feat when you consider that there’s not much action in the film at all. Besides, the script also features fascinating and larger-than-life characters. Though they behave rather strangely, you relate to them and connect with their situations.

Visually stunning isn’t a word that I toss around on a regular basis, but in the case of “Her”, I can’t help but give it that merit. It is beautifully shot with an unforgettable style. Whether it’s deeply emotional close-ups or gorgeous establishing shots of city skyscrapers, the cinematography captures the feeling of loneliness unlike any film you’ll see this year. Director Spike Jonze makes full use of the futuristic setting to craft a film that is not only a treat for the eyes, but also one that brims with passion. You truly feel as if “Her” is a movie that has been created by someone that loves movies, which isn’t something you can say about every film these days.

In terms of acting, the stunning performances in “Her” render you speechless in amazement. Each performer is at the top of their game, stepping out of their comfort zones to reveal unexpected talents.

Joaquin Phoenix delivers an incredible performance as an emotionally broken writer that displays him as one of the most versatile actors of his generation. If you’re familiar with Phoenix’s previous works, here’s an actor that so often plays psychotic characters but in “Her”, he reveals an emotionally vulnerable side to his acting he’s never shown before. Commanding the screen with a warm presence, the actor is charming, endearing and heartbreaking. He has an expressive look on his face that tells you more about his character than his dialogue. As Rhitu Ghatourey once said, “All that is in the heart is written on the face”.

Scarlett Johansson is spectacular in the role of an intelligent operating system looking for meaning in life. Even though you never get to see the actress onscreen, it is hard to not be swept away by her charismatic and lively persona. It is far from an easy job to convey emotions through a voice, yet Johansson delivers a monumental achievement in acting that will be talked about for years.

The last, most surprising standout is Amy Adams as an optimistic friend. This is the actress unlike you’ve ever seen her before: real and believable in one of her first empathetic roles. Despite having little screen time, she delivers the most thought-provoking dialogue of the year that stays with you as you leave the theater.

It isn’t always that you come out of a film humming it’s tunes, but “Her” is a movie so beautifully scored that it would make a legendary composer like Beethoven proud. An assortment of electronic tunes that range from upbeat to deeply heartfelt, the soundtrack for this film tremendously raises the bar for musical scores of movies. I’ve never been a fan of electronic music, however, “Her” is one of those special movies that has convinced me to give it a second chance.

Although I absolutely loved “Her”, I don’t think that it’s a film without a flaw. At a running time that’s a little over 2 hours, the movie is slow-paced and it takes a while for you to be fully engaged in the story. Some scenes feel unnecessary and out-of-place but others capture your attention immediately.

Also, to be completely honest, “Her” isn’t the kind of film that will please everyone. To put it into simplest terms, those with a low attention-span that only go to the movies for entertainment will likely be let down by what this movie has to offer.

Nevertheless, fans of Spike Jonze’s original trademark style will definitely adore “Her”, and so will anyone who believes that technology has taken over our world today. There’s nothing like going into a film with low-expectations, but then being pleasantly taken aback by how great it is. It’s certainly not an experience that I’ll be able to forget anytime soon…

4.5/5 stars

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