Film Review: “Her”

***1/2OUT OF 4

HerPosterIt’s hard to imagine that visionary director Spike Jonze has been adapting outrageous concepts into feature-length motion pictures for some 15 years. For his fourth film, following Being John Malkovich(1999), Adaptation(2002), and Where the Wild Things Are(2009), he steps into auteur territory by working from his own original screenplay.

For his latest feature, “Her”,  he offers us an inventive, post-modern romantic comedy like we’ve never seen before. It provides a vision of our cyber- focused world and where it is heading.

The film centers on the story of Theodore Twombly( a deeply felt- Joaquin Phoenix) a depressed and lonely 30- something guy who develops a romantic attachment to his Smartphone’s computer operating system. Twombly, who writes letters on-line for people who are “blocked” from expressing their emotions, falls for the title character who is vivacious and eerily intuitive.  The OS names itself Samantha and is voiced by the mellifluous tones of Scarlett Johansson who never appears on screen.

Theodore lives an upscale life in a location that approximates  a not so distant- in- the- future Los Angeles. He wears a pocket size communication device that might be likened to a Zappo lighter.  His isolation is accentuated by the fact that his wife (Rooney Mara) has left him. She opines on his condition: “You’re dating your lap-top?” His best friend is portrayed by Amy Adams who seems aloof as she designs video-games.

“Her” works on a variety of levels. It builds on the way people react to their mobile devices as they wander around in a trance-like communion  with their phones and it asks the question can people achieve sexual fulfillment from this type of cerebral relationship?

The lensing is the outstanding work of DP Hoyte Van Hoytema. The sound design is poignant and music is provided by the brilliant Arcade Fire.

What Mr. Jones, 44,  does so well is provide the viewer with a poetic sensitivity and a philosophic overtone. When asked to provide insight into his latest work he commented: “I don’t think the movie is about technology.Yes, it has all these big ideas but whenever the ideas dwarfed the intimacy…we always went toward the relationship”.

The Las Vegas Film Critics Society, of which I am a member,  voted “Her” as  having “The Best Screenplay” for a motion picture released in 2013.

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