Her (2014) Short Review (R)
The Premise: A lonely man who makes a living writing personal letters for other people falls in love with his new smartphone operating system. Yes, literally. With Apple’s Siri, I think we all saw it coming.
Why You Should See It: Director Spike Jonze was behind ‘Adaptation’, which I have extremely high regard for. How high? Click here for the answer. Charlie Kaufman wrote that, however, whereas Jonze wrote this one himself. The last film that I saw that Jonze both wrote and directed was his big screen re-imagining of the popular children’s book ‘Where The Wild things Are‘, a film that I both liked and was disappointed by. I’ll wait if you want to check out my review for that one. No? You didn’t come here just for Scarlett Johansson wallpaper did you? Anyway… This was almost like watching that one, only without any expectations that I had from familiar source material.
I don’t mean to work out where a film might be going before I see it, but a quick synopsis popped into my brain as soon as I heard about this one: “Boy Loses Girl. Boy Gets Operating System. Boy Loses Operating System. Boy Gets new Girl.” If you see this, you tell me how close that I came. I won’t blow my own horn if I nailed that one. Really, I won’t. Anyway… This is not in the same ballpark as the watermark of ‘Adaptation’. Not even in the same sport, really, so to speak. This might be in a soccer stadium or something… No, that would be insulting. Maybe a basketball arena somewhere… And it has a few scenes that were obvious at least to me that did not work as well (or were not as funny) as the director probably thought that they did. It’s still an entertaining film, though. Mostly intelligent. The characters in the film don’t seem to think of things as quickly as the audience will (and won’t see where it’s all going, either), but it is a little more thoughtful than your typical comedy and falling at least a mile or two in general sci-fi tone as the brilliant Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind. I have high regard for that one, too, as you can see by clicking here. Or you don’t have to. I’m just sayin’…
If you’re like me, though, you’ll like most of the people (if not all) of the actors in ‘Her’… Did I just make a ‘funny’? Yes. Yes, I think I did. Anyway, Joaquin Pheonix is a top notch actor, especially when it comes to playing people who are a little ‘off’ shall we say, and he does another fine job here. My only criticism on the rest of the cast is that maybe they were not shown enough… And that’s not any kind of scurrillous commentary on my part aimed at the Johannson’s physical assets. I reserve all of those for Olivia Wilde, actually. She makes everything that she’s in, that much better. She’s like bacon, actually. Olivia Wilde is like bacon, even in a part where she’s not supposed to be particularly liked at the end of her performance. Amy Adams (reunited with her costar from The Master) gets just enough screentime, I guess, for her supportive role, but I think the film would have been a lot better with a lot more of Her (see what I did there?). She’s one of the few actresses that can make even a chick flick tolerable to most.
Is this a big screen movie? Mmmm.. Well, I think so… It’s not a big FX movie. It’s low key. It has the feel of one of those highly polished, ‘packaged’ indie films, but Hoyte Van Hoytema (cinematographer) makes the visuals pretty to look at. It has that minimalist vibe that the director seems to prefer, not even giving Samantha (the operating system) an avatar. But, maybe that was the point of that, I don’t know. Jonez REALLY wants to say something profound about the human condition, but maybe stays a little too cookie cutter… and a lot too banal… even for such an unorthodox love story. Is that damning with faint praise? I hope not. Jonez sequences a pretty clear narrative, but possibly the film needed more actual conflict. Maybe that’s what I’m trying to say. ‘Her’ might be be a little too ‘art house’ and not enough ‘mainstream theater’ for its own good. But, I LIKE art house films. And I did like ‘Her’. I just didn’t love ‘Her’.