"}
Film

Her

Step aside, Siri

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

If you’re the sort who grouses in restaurants watching a guy wedded to his iPhone rather than engaged in conversation with his date, then Spike Jonze’s Her is right up your anti-tech alley.

Her is Jonze’s erudite and urgent wakeup call for our plugged-in times, a bittersweet tale that shouldn’t be dismissed as just another simple-minded pledge drive for Luddites. Set in the not-so-distant future, it’s a smartly attired, well-acted parable about loneliness, love and our failure to communicate compassionately in a technologically accelerating world where we can access anyone, anything, anytime, anywhere.

It takes a male fantasy scenario—sad-sack guy (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in drooling love with a hyper-helpful, throaty-voiced operating system (Scarlett Johansson)—and avoids turning it into a breezy sex comedy. And do note: Jonze’s story is very much told from the guy’s perspective, so expect a lively debate afterward, though no matter how you feel about the premise, you’ll have to agree it’s insightfully executed.

Jonze is an adventurous filmmaker who’s never afraid of falling flat on his face and whose risks often pay off. In Her, he is a wise observer of a modern conundrum. As in the past, this love story bucks genre specifications, not unlike Being John Malkovich—which he also directed though didn’t write.

As a screenwriter, he every so often flogs his point to death—especially an over-the-top sex phone hookup sequence. Mostly, though, he’s pitch perfect. The Arcade Fire soundtrack hits the right notes; same with the moderately surreal production design by K.K. Barrett and striking photography by Hoyte Van Hoytema.

The greatest debt he owes, though, is to his lead actors. Although they’re never onscreen together, Phoenix and Johansson generate more tangible chemistry than some actors who share hours of intimate screen time.

Phoenix, in one of his most accessible roles and sympathetic performances, plays Theodore Twombly, a semi-depressed writer who crafts soul-soothing letters for clients too busy or too crippled by their inability to communicate their affection to loved ones. Theodore’s letters, which he reads aloud with a sense of longing, are blushingly filled with intimate memories only couples should discuss. That someone pays a stranger to communicate these eloquently expressed sentiments is telling and tragic.

Like other characters in Jonze’s vision of the slightly futuristic Los Angeles (Singapore subbing in nicely at points), Theodore spends most of his time plugged into his phone, checking voice mail, news and celebrity photos. He does have a few friends, including a documentary filmmaker (Amy Adams, a bright spot with her frizzy hair and blunt observations), who develops a pessimistic view about love, as well as a happy-in-real-love co-worker played with jocularity by Chris Pratt.

Still reeling from the fallout of a broken relationship, Theodore doesn’t get out much. When he does go on an arranged date with a beautiful woman (Olivia Wilde, who seems to look askance—as I did—at how all the men in this film wear pants way too far above their waistline), it’s a disaster.

Theodore prefers the company of “Samantha,” a sunny operating system that speaks in Johansson’s distinctive voice. It’s easy to see why Samantha keeps Theodore up at night. She’s also quite unlike Theodore’s honest and realistic ex (Rooney Mara, doing the most with her limited scenes). “You’re dating your computer,” she says in disbelief.

Theodore doesn’t mind, since Samantha doesn’t require nearly as much maintenance. Or so he thinks.

Jonze takes this Twilight Zone-like premise and tosses some provocative challenges at it, making us feel uncomfortable as he questions whether genuine love can survive our expectations for instant perfection and gratification.

Her shows us how and why this disconnect happens. But it does more: It warns us not to turn into that texting person at the restaurant, the bottled-up guy who ignores the best, even if imperfect, live human being sitting across the table.

SVCR-0672 QMT_770x150 CW
More Film...
London Road
A musical murder mystery

The techniques of verbatim theater go back decades, to at least the 1950s, when young German theater troupes would reenact complicated court cases word for word onstage. Even earlier, in the United States, the WPA paid for a form of this performance with its “Living Newspapers,” in…

more »
The Magnificent Seven
Another day, another remake

The big difference between the new version of The Magnificent Seven and the revered 1960 feature is the ethnic background of the main characters. The titular seven in director Antoine Fuqua’s take are a diverse bunch, while the ruthless villain of the piece is no longer a Mexican bandito…

more »
Bridget Jones’s Baby
Renee gets a rebirth

Hapless London-based media type Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) returns to the big screen after a 12-year break to battle unexpected pregnancy, 20-something hipsters and, once more, the perils of live TV in Bridget Jones’s Baby. With our heroine now a successful single producer in her…

more »
Events
Today
A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

We Grow Market

3:00pm|Northwest Youth Services

Yoga for Outdoor Fitness

6:00pm|REI

Cooking with Sea Vegetables

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Candidate Forum

6:30pm|PUD Building

The Happy Elf Auditions

7:00pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Open Mic

7:00pm|Village Books

Poetrynight

8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Guffawingham

9:30pm|Green Frog

Artifacts Wine Bar Zoots Side Bar
Tomorrow
Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

The Happy Elf Auditions

7:00pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Making Miso

4:00pm|Skagit Valley Food Co-op

Not If But When

6:00pm|Burlington Public Library

All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Bingo in Blaine

6:00pm|Blaine Senior Center

Wonton and Char Siu

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Bellingham Reads

6:30pm|Bellingham Public Library

Roving Cocktail Party

6:30pm|Gretchen's Kitchen

Eagle Presentation

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Blackfish Prophecy

7:00pm|Village Books

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Beginning Square Dance

7:00pm|Ten Mile Grange

Monastery Talk

7:00pm|Bellingham Shambhala Meditation Center

Andrew Subin CW BOB 2016
Wednesday
A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Bellingham City Club Meeting

11:30am|Northwood Hall

Lynden Book Club

12:30pm|Lynden Library

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Fun with Fermentation

4:00pm|Blaine Library

Ukulele for Everyone

4:00pm|Everson Library

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Bokashi Composting

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Teton Gravity Research's Tight Loose

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Bebel Gilberto

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Bebel Gilberto

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Zoots Side Bar Artifacts Wine Bar Village Books Bellingham Farmer’s Market Northwood Steak and Crab Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Swinomish 2016 CW BOB 2016 Everybody’s Store Andrew Subin