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Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Her", Eternal Sunshine of the Digital Mind


Thanks Spike Jonze for delivering one of the most special films this blogger has ever seen. Her is a unique tour-de-force. Sweet, wise and ahead of its time. Soulful and intriguing. Romantic and adventurous. Could be adding adjectives for days...

Her is a ridiculously smart and risky film. Smart because Jonze uses a just-barely-sci-fi setting, with a dreamy, pastel sun-setting but isolated L.A., the scenario in which he develops a profoundly deep and touching tale about human relationships in the digital age. And risky because the director is not afraid to take his time, making the movie a very peculiar one in terms of rhythm and tone (elegiac, dreamy). He's also brave enough to breath-in and breath-out. He demands an effort to the spectator (I admit the pace and the acceptance of the idea can be a bit too much for many), but the reward is mind-blowing, only comparable to, imo, to another undeniable contemporary masterpiece with whom Her shares quite a few resemblances, Eternal Sunshine of the Eternal Mind. Like Gondry's superb quest on memory and love Her connects with you in a way very few movies have.

Like Joel Barish in Eternal Sunshine, Theodore Twombly can't move on from his failed relationship, once that a hopeless romantic like him always was fated to last forever. He's lonely and self-protective, despite his work as a personal letter's writer requires him to be a very special connoisseur of human emotions. But then technology, in the form of an artificial intelligence operating system named Samantha appears. And a dozen of paradoxes and questions too. Can we reach a deeper level of communication with an OS? Can a machine, perfected to adapt itself, created to please his/her user, to meet all our requirements, understands us, also at an emotional level? Can we develop affection, empathy and finally, love, without physical attraction? Could that qualify as a real relation? What is this thing called love, anyways? Spike Jonze builds a slightly deformed, exaggerated mirror, on which he speculates with the overgrowing virtual affairs: are they the inevitable evolution of relationships? Are we that far of that scenario in our tech-blooming society (please try not to check you Iphone for at least ten minutes)?

Of course, this thoughtful and ambitious amount of dilemmas wouldn't make for a great movie without a script and real actors that transform the ideas into compelling scenes. But to this date, if Jonze was known as a masterful director in what regards to create surreal, bewildering worlds and situations (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are), this time he has exceeded all expectations, penning an equally arresting and witty script, that flows gracefully from drama to comedy, entirely on his own, allowing actors to excel with the material they have. Joaquim Phoenix as Theodore just carries the movie on his shoulders, he's the perfect fit: vulnerable, needy, confused, introvert, annoying, possessive, frightened. So human and recognisable. Scarlett Johansson, never on screen, also does for a very surprising role (let's admit I was thinking who wouldn't fall in love with her a couple of times while watching it, but keep the secret). The director does an incredible job on capturing the intimacy of the impossible couple. If you don't feel for the characters, you are made of stone (or made of Iphone, even worse). Amy Adams is also impressive in her secondary but very relevant secondary role as Amy, Theodore's best friend (and something more) who is struggling with a "real" marriage that goes nowhere...

I have developed several theories about the movie and its near-perfect puzzle, the crossing of parallel lines between real and technological. But I don't want to spoil you the film (or bore you). All I can do is enthusiastically recommend you to go watch this film. An arresting, uniquely beautiful and rich movie. Masterpiece.

SCORE: 9/10

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