Visually, Spike Jonze’s futuristic romantic new feature film, Her, is breathtaking. Crisp and bright, Her is bathed in pastel tints and the warm glows of a not so distant future. The film’s aesthetic remains consistently refreshing from the opening detailed close up of actor Joaquin Phoenix’s face to the closing images of a city, lit up and buzzing with life in the darkness of night. Jonze’s films always look great. Her maintains the aesthetic dreaminess and romanticism of Where the Wild Things Are. Jonze has only directed four feature films but all four have a strong sense of signature and originality. My favourite Jonze film is Adaptation; a smart and hilarious study of the difficulty of, well, adaptation. Heris, unmistakably, a Spike Jonze film but I wish I’d warmed to it just a little bit more. The film follows writer Theodore who is coming to terms with his divorce. Theodore is not just a writer, but a letter writer. We first meet Theodore in his place of work. He is employed to write deep and meaningful letters on behalf of others. This initial concept of a break down in communication and sincerity frames the rest of the story. Theodore ultimately falls in love with his home operating system; a computer, designed to learn and evolve uniquely, that organises his life and who calls ‘her’self Samantha. As their love develops so does their relationship, despite the lack of the physical.
Samantha Morton was originally cast as Samantha. After the entire film was complete, and editing was taking place, Spike Jonze made the unexpected decision to recast the computer and re-record the audio of the character entirely, now with Scarlett Johansson. Jonze’s reason for such a drastic change has not been fully expressed but it has been reported that something was simply not quite right. Although I enjoyed Her very much I can’t help but wonder if I would have loved it had Morton’s voice been present. I always associate Morton with science fiction since her remarkable performance inMinority Report. Johansson is fine but not wonderful. Phoenix gives a great performance as Theodore which is surprisingly gentle. I still believe he was at his greatest this time last year in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master but it is a nice change to see him being much softer. We are reminded of The Master throughout Her as it marks the reunion of Phoenix with co-star Amy Adams; the absence of Philip Seymour Hoffman also painfully apparent. Adams is, as ever, on great form giving a wonderful portrayal of a slightly scatty and lonely friend of Theodore’s. It is Rooney Mara who gives the best and sadly the briefest performance as Theodore’s soon-to-be ex-wife. It would have been wise to give their previously blissful marriage a little more screen time as these scenes were very moving and dug the deepest into Theodore’s character.
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