If that sounds like an insult…sorry, Millennials. It’s not your fault. You are merely the cynical, complacent slippery slope bi-product of the Baby Boomers, who are merely the pampered, self-indulgent bi-product of the Greatest Generation, who are simply the inevitable slippery slope bi-product of cave men.
Her is a profound, compelling examination of contemporary American culture, set in a futuristic Los Angeles we have never seen before – all the men tuck in their shirts (I know!) – but it’s an L.A. that is pretty easy to imagine…in the not too distant future.
What is the slippery slope of all of this technology? That is the conflict at the heart of Her.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore. Theodore works at BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com. He specializes in penning romantic love letters for people who…cannot.
Yep, this film is packed with irony. People pin balling around commerce squares, plugged in, seemingly talking to themselves, data determining all aspects of life, thus minimizing risk and/or need to engage with another person.
Writer-director Jonze’ film reminded me of the urban clutter loneliness of Lost in Translation (*irony or coincidence?); the mortality themes of sci-fi classics Blade Runner and 2001: A Space Odyssey; and the detached wounded heartache of Christopher Nolan’s brilliant Memento.
“I wonder when I will stop caring about her,” says Theodore to his new companion, an Operating System (O.S. voiced by Scarlett Johansson), lamenting his pending divorce from his wife (Rooney Mara). There is a moment when the couple finally sit to actually sign their divorce papers that is so heartbreaking in its finality. In such a simple way, Jonze captured the feeling of failure that must engulf couples who split permanently. So simple. So powerful.
This film makes so many spot-on observations on relationship conflicts and gender differences. Suffice it to say, Jonze has given the subject matter a lot of thought. If his script does not win the Oscar for Original Screenplay then the category has no genuine meaning.
Jonze is also expert in his casting choices. Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, and Chris Pratt perfectly fit in to this world. All giving engaging, desperately honest performances.
As good as all of the performances are, though, it is Spike Jonze imagination that is the star of Her, easily one of the absolute best films of 2013. Jonze has collaborated a few times with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, and the influence has been profound.
So great that we have suddenly found ourselves in an era of brilliant “young” filmmakers. Wes Anderson, Alfonso Cuaron, Paul Thomas Anderson, Lee Daniels, and, of course, Nolan.
Oh, and one more thing.
For those critics who dismissed Joaquin Phoenix’s amazing performance in PT Anderson’s The Master, claiming the director merely filmed the erratic demons of a disturbed man, I hope this work opens their eyes and makes them believers. Phoenix is like no other actor working in films.
I can’t think of another actor who could have pulled this role off with such richness.
*Lost in Translation (2003) was directed by Sofia Coppola, who had recently divorced from Spike Jonze before filming began. The Giovanni Ribisi character was based on Jonze; and his flirtations with Anna Farris’ daffy actress character in the film was Coppola’s interpretation of Jonze’ relationship with Cameron Diaz during the filming of Jonze’ Being John Malkovich (1999).