The Watchers

The Watchers

Friday, 21 February 2014

Review: Her (UK Cert 15)

There's an 2012 episode of The Big Bang Theory called 'The Beta Test Initiation' which, as a subplot, has the hapless Raj fall in love with and start dating Siri, his iPhone 'personal assistant' (I should just clarify that, in the US, Siri has a female voice whereas in the UK it's done by the bloke who does the voice-over for The Weakest Link). The reason I bring this up is just to point out that it's a very similar premise to the plot of Her, Spike Jonze's latest movie.

Set in the year 2025, Her is a love story with a twist. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) spends his days writing emotional and love-filled letters for other people. He's a lonely everyman figure, in the last stages of getting divorced from childhood sweetheart Catherine (Rooney Mara). He gets a new operating system with artificial intelligence which can be personalised to the user. After a few questions, the OS initialises. She calls herself Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). She's smart, she's funny and she's eager to learn about herself and the world. Their relationship starts to grow and Theodore finds himself falling in love with her...It's a great premise- and, in some ways, quite high-concept sci-fi- but I just didn't find myself falling for it.

I will admit that a part of my nonchalance towards the film stems from the fact that I don't like Joaquin Phoenix as an actor and, if I'm honest, I never really have. So to sit through a film where he is in virtually every shot is a bit of a trial. So why did I go and see it? Well, the film has a very interesting premise. Going into a Spike Jonze movie- he previously directed Being John Malkovich and Adaptation.- you know you're in for something slightly off-the-wall, slightly weird, a bit oddball. But there were points in the film (and I don't want to give any spoilers) where things just got a bit too weird for me. 

Performances vary from passable (Phoenix), to good (Chris Pratt as Theodore's workmate Paul, providing a bit of comic relief) to pretty damn amazing: Mara only has one scene of dialogue- there are many scenes which are cut together where dialogue is muted or not shown (which started to get very irritating very quickly)- but she shines as she tries to comprehend Theodore's new relationship. Amy Adams provides able support as Theodore's friend Amy who follows a similar story arc to Theodore. But the standout performance comes from Johansson who is just superb as Samantha. It's a nuanced and quite brilliant performance, made all the more extraordinary for her not being seen on screen. 

Ultimately, how you view this film- how you view any film- comes down to personal taste. Her has an intriguing premise and there are some knockout performances in it. It's received widespread critical acclaim and garnered a load of award nominations and wins- such as the Golden Globe and the Writers Guild Award for Best Original Screenplay, and the AFI's Movie Of The Year. However, for me, it also has an air of trying to be quirky, trying to be out-there, setting itself up as a truly original concept (which it actually isn't) and trying a bit too hard, which did grate on me. There were others in the screen who absolutely adored it and were enraptured and gushing about it afterwards; there were others who saw it as a pretentious waste of time. I get the feeling this is going to be a real Marmite film- sadly, for me, I wasn't keen.

Rating: 3 out of 5


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