Friday, January 31, 2014

Her [A Fat Jesus Movie Review]

"Her" is one of those movies that clicks on every level. When I first heard about this Spike Jonze film, I was intrigued. A love story in which one character was on screen and one was off is a concept that is highly original. This cast is also loaded. Joaquin Phoenix leads a crew that includes Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara and Olivia Wilde. "Her" is easily my favorite movie of the year and Spike Jonze has made a film that tells quite a story, while hitting you right in your emotional gut.

"Her" follows the story of Theodore Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix), an introverted man who writes personal love letters for people unable to express it for themselves. He's become very lonely, as he about to become divorced from his childhood sweetheart, Catherine (Rooney Mara). One day, Theodore purchases a OS (operating system) with artificial intelligence designed to evolve like a human. Theodore decides to have his OS be a female and not long after he meets Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). They begin to bond through her going through his emails and learning about his personality. Beyond that they begin to bond through talking about life and love. One day, to get over Catherine, Samantha convinces Theodore to go out on a blind date with a woman (Olivia Wilde). The woman is a friend of Theodore's longtime friend, Amy (Amy Adams). The date goes well, but things don't quite mesh between the two when Theodore is faced with commitment. After the date, Theodore and Samantha begin to talk relationships and Theodore brings up how he briefly dated Amy in college. Each day Theodore and Samantha become more and more intimate. Amy mentions to Theodore that she is divorcing her overbearing husband, Charles (Matt Letscher). Then Theodore mentions that he is in fact dating his OS, Samantha. Theodore is finally in a place to get past his ex and Samantha is just the thing to give him hope in life.

"Her" is a movie that had me hook line and sinker from beginning to end. The direction and writing from Spike Jonze has garnered him a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, but it also put his movie in the mix for Best Picture. I'm glad that this film made the top nominations of the year. Not just because it was my favorite film of 2013, but because it's one of the few that truly deserved it. Every aspect of this film was great. You name it, it was fantastic. The writing and directing that I already mentioned, the acting, cinematography and the story. It's almost hard to pinpoint things because everything was so good. I guess that makes my job easy, but here are a few things that jumped out to me about this film. The story and writing are great. This is a love story yes, but one done is such an original way that you don't groan when you hear what the movie is about. A man, from the not so distant future, falls for an almost real being that happens to be his operating system. It does sound kind-of wonky, but it's done it such an intimate and emotional way, the wariness will leave you quickly. The writing is fantastic, especially considering a bulk of the dialogue is for a person, Samantha, you never see physically on-screen. Everything feels real, from the letters Theodore writes, you partially hear about, to the relationships between characters and then obviously the relationship between Theodore and Samantha. Being organic is a good way to get attention and add good to a film. It lets the audience connect, live and laugh over the course of the film. The characters make it easy to invest in them and you begin to empathize, and almost root for them, in way.

Let's not stop here, because this movie looks and sounds great. One of the things that hit me when I watched this, was that everything was futuristic, but didn't feel out of place. What I mean by that, is that it's obviously set in the future, but everything felt like it could happen. It's not going out of its way to throw flying cars and impossible inventions in just because it's set ahead of now. It feel like this is what the world could look like in 20 years, with things our grand kids could be using in everyday life. Speaking of, the few shots we do get to see as backdrops, of LA and Shanghai, are beautiful and really let you appreciate the visuals of this film. The score and soundtrack is great as well. It really immerses you in everything going on. Also, in case you hadn't heard, the signature song, "The Moon Song," was nominated for an Oscar as well. We'll finally get to the acting, as everyone was exceptional, and really brought this film to life. Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore was the anchor of this film. He embodies the Theodore and really does bring the character to life. The other big name that really makes this movie is Scarlett Johansson as Samantha. You never see her on-screen, but you can argue that without her vocal performance, this film wouldn't be as good.  Obviously this isn't an animated film, so you never actually see Samantha outside of a cell phone-like device or a computer. It's a wonder that Scarlett was able to give such a wonderful performance and I'm glad she got the role. Phoenix and Johansson are a great pairing and everything goes so smoothly. You get to see the friendship, the emotion, the awkwardness, the relationship and the hard times. At a lot of points in this film, you lose track that Samantha isn't real. You're so sucked in by the interactions between Phoenix and Adams, or Wilde or Mara. Even Chris Pratt , who only had a handful of lines, was able to bring his role to life and become memorable. Maybe it was the writing, maybe it was the actors themselves. I'm glad that everyone was completely on with Spike Jonze making "Her."

"Her" really is the complete film. I don't really know how much more I can say. This is the type of movie you watch, and fall in love with. Spike Jonze and anything and everything nominated from this film truly does deserve it. The acting, original writing, directing, look, sounds, characters are all great. "Her" is a movie that blends realism with emotion so well. If you haven't seen this yet, I highly recommend it. Even if you only look to watch the best films of the year, you must include "Her" in your viewership. You will not be disappointed.

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