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Her
Genre Sci-Fi
 
Review:

We're living in an age when being without our phone makes us feel disconnected from society. No social media, no messaging services, no Internet and no fast track to our list of contacts makes us feel insecure and out of touch. These mobile devices have become more than our personal assistants, they've become an integral part of our lives, accompanying us as if surgically attached.

iPhone, Blackberry, Samsung, Nokia... these aren't technology brands, they're lifestyles waiting to be adopted, distinguishing us along fixed lines. Our phones are our friends, simultaneously keeping us in touch with the digital world and keeping us out of touch with the real world. They help us feel less alone in a society that prides itself on getting us stuck on ourselves, and they do what we tell them to do.

With the advent of products like Siri, and speech recognition's continuous improvements, Her wasn't so much of an original idea as an extension of a societal trend. Spike Jonze is an out-of-the-box writer-director, the sort of creative spirit, whose playful film ideas would probably be deemed over-ambitious and crazy by 9-out-of-10 film-makers. He's latched onto and expanded on an idea that is so timely that its futuristic environment is more of a comfort than a necessity.

Her takes the concept of a digital personal assistant to the next level. The natural language interface Siri, which means "beautiful woman who leads you to victory", gives us a chance to interact with an intelligent application's personality. Jonze takes this digital-human relationship a step further, by allowing an OS the ability to interact with a user on a much more personal level based on a number of preferences.

Jonze casts a lonely writer into the mix as he develops an unconventional relationship with the OS1 interface. The twist of science fiction gives him a buffer to make a startling commentary on society from a distance to avoid alienating his audience. To convey the complexity of the character and the situation, he's placed his confidence in the talented and consistent, Joaquin Phoenix, who essentially carries the film.

Phoenix is a one-man-show, delivering a nuanced performance that relies on an off-screen voice, brought to life by Scarlett Johansson. The portrait of Theodore Twombly is beautifully realised, set against a familiar yet futuristic world, where devices respond to voice recognition commands and operating systems are viral - synchronising between your desktop screen to your cellular earpiece. This allows Twombly's operating system, named Samantha, to literally become a voice in his head accompanying him anywhere and everywhere.

Scarlett Johansson's voice is easy on the ear and she manages to deliver a wonderfully measured and affected performance without having any on-screen visualisation at all. We experience her voice just like Theodore, making it much easier for us to journey with the suspended reality of the relationship. It plays out like a long distance relationship that becomes more and more intimate as Samantha reaches out for real human experiences and Theodore develops an unlikely romance with an OS.

While Her's all about Theodore and Samantha's relationship, the cast is enhanced by a solid contrasting performance from Amy Adams as an old friend and Rooney Mara as Theodore's estranged soon-to-be ex-wife. Adams makes a great character counterpoint and Mara helps establish Theodore's romantic history, while making great examples of real world women in Theodore's life.

Spike Jonze has tapped into humanity's basic need for love in a society so ravaged by self-sufficiency that every man like an island with a radio transmitter. It's profoundly sad, deeply moving and tempered by a non-judgmental sense of humour that keeps us amused, fascinated and entertained. This is an intricate and beautifully written romance drama and comedy for the modern age that entrenches itself in universal themes. Jonze has created a colourful, clinical, creative and aesthetically-pleasing playground for this unusual love story to take place.

Her isn't as off-the-wall as Lars and the Real Girl, as down-the-line as Robot & Frank or as obvious as S1mone. It's much better, giving us a fly-on-the-wall perspective that enters another level of consciousness. Her is emotionally voyeuristic and Jonze handles this provocative love story with a delicate touch, steering clear of broad comedy by keeping Theodore a gentle and likable every man. This idea is helped by Theodore's comical glasses and moustache, which match that classic novelty store disguise and the film's nerdy costume design.

Her's authentic, playful and creative perspective is all thanks to the mind of Spike Jonze. He brings us a slice-of-life from the future, presenting a very possible trajectory and examining it from the inside out. It's a wonderful, thought-provoking and smart film that connects with us in all the disconnectedness and frailty of life, examining what it means to be human and serving up an original film experience, powered home by a typically strong performance from Phoenix.

The bottom line: Intimate

 

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