Movie review – Her: Millennial love connection

2014-02-16 14:00


Director: Spike Jonze

Featuring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara and Scarlett Johansson

Love is a many-splendored thing. But it’s just as often as weird and awkward as it is wonderful.

Who better then to write the quintessential sci-fi love story for the Facebook era than Spike Jonze?

Her is an instant masterpiece.

On a superficial level, it is a delicately constructed love story, but underneath the love-story exterior lies layer upon layer of exploration of who we are, what makes us who we are, how far we allow others to define who we are and at what point we cease to care what is normal.

Joaquin Phoenix is Theodore Twombly, a writer who works at a letter-writing firm.

He spends his time capturing and distilling the emotional lives of his clients into beautifully written letters.

But his emotional life is in tatters after a divorce he did not see coming.

He lives in his grey little world filled with sadness?–?one constructed by Jonze to be a little bit in the future when men’s trouser waistlines have travelled up again way over the navel (thankfully no sagging bums in this film), referencing the 1920s.

Phoenix?–?who retired from the movie scene for four years before returning to make The Master with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman?–?was not nominated for an Oscar for this role.

He’s been robbed. Similarly, Scarlett Johansson creates an entire character who feels as warm and real as you and I, with just her voice as Theodore’s advanced operating system, Samantha.

The performances the two leads give are extraordinary.

They create an on-screen chemistry that fizzes and sizzles without physically sharing a frame.

Jonze is a master of the unexpected.

He most recently adapted the magical and frightening children’s story Where the Wild Things Are for the screen. He might not be prolific, but when Jonze touches a subject, it takes on a life of its own.

While he might not have realised it, Her explores virgin territory in the female experience.

Imagine a woman who cannot be objectified. A woman who cannot be judged for what she looks like.

Who is ageless. Samantha is a person in every way but the physical.

She has no body and so is not limited by the expectations society attaches to the female form.

This is what entices about Jonze’s film. It explores intimacy in an unexpected way without sexual desire as the primary driver of the relationship.

This makes Theodore and Samantha’s relationship more emotionally real.

They can’t hide behind the physical because sex is tricky.

Johansson says of creating Samantha: “There was a tremendous sense of freedom in being able to create a personality without the limits or the expectations of anything physical. It was liberating.”

This leaves the job of making falling in love corporeal for the audience to Phoenix.

As Theodore and Samantha fall in love, their concept of what is real blurs.

Theodore takes her to the beach, to dinner and to meet his friends, and it seems normal to the audience too Jonze constantly twists this tale so that just when you think a showdown is coming, it is averted and just when you think things have settled into a rhythm, the pattern is broken.

Her is easily the most wonderful love story I have seen in years.

With five Oscar nominations, it faces tough competition in the Best Film category.

But it has to be a favourite if only for the audacity of putting Johansson in a film and not allowing anyone to see her.

This definitely qualifies Jonze as a feminist and bucks the ever-pervasive trend of body fascism in Hollywood.

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