What movie was that...?

13 January 2014


directed by Spike Jonze

Many great directors instill their work with shades of themselves. You get a definite impression of the kind of person Stanley Kubrick was based on his canon. You understand a great deal about Lars Von Trier by bearing witness to his cinematic fits and starts. As personal as filmmakers may get when creating their art, I find none as intimately revealing as Spike Jonze.

I distinctly remember the first time I learned Jonze’s name, sitting in my grandmother’s living room watching MTV as the video for “Cannonball” by The Breeders played out. I almost couldn’t pay attention to the video because I was worried I’d miss the director credit at the end. Ah, the old heyday of MTV programming… but there was something even then that struck me about Jonze’s style. Dozens of amazing videos, 3 features and 20 years have passed, and Jonze has revealed himself more and more with every work. When I watch his films, I feel as if I was allowed through a back door into Jonze’s mind, and even as I marvel at its oddness (and its similarity to my own), I feel almost nervous. It’s as if I got in by accident, and I worry that he might be mad if he found me wandering around in there. This analogy may sound strange, but then again Jonze is strange, wonderfully, delicately, beautifully strange in a way that takes the light of the world and refracts it back as a fragile and tumultuous rainbow.

It’s safe to assume, good reader, that I am pre-disposed to fall in love with anything Jonze creates, and I have been waiting with bated breath (for what seems like forever) for Her, the first wholly Jonzian work (not an adaptation or director only credit), to finally arrive. And it has, in all its kaleidoscopic, retrofuturistic magic. The love story that takes place sometime in the not so distant future (where all of fashion seems to worship at the altar of David Byrne, btw) between a man and his OS is (if you can allow yourself to go with Jonze on this intellectual leap) at once a timeless story and a fresh look at the thrills and trenches of love and relationships. Joaquin Phoenix is phenomenal as Theodore Twombly, a melancholic letter writer in the throes of a divorce who cultivates a romance with an artificially intelligent operating system (wonderfully voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Don’t worry, all the questions (theoretical, logistical, comically immature) flitting through your mind are tackled throughout Her’s duration, but the film is not some sort of science fiction spectacle. At its heart, Her is a love story that ponders what exactly it takes to make love exist, to qualify it as real. Amy Adams pulls a 2008 Kate Winslet and delivers 2 Oscar worthy performances in a year (go see American Hustle, already), this time around as Amy, Theodore’s friend and fellow searcher. Her is beautifully shot, amazingly scored, and movingly realized by a staggeringly genius screwball. It’s the kind of film you never knew you needed in your life until you see it.

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