Her is a Spike Jonze film. Obviously, in one sense, but also not so obviously in the way that movies not made by Spike Jonze can also be Spike Jonze movies because they have become a genre in and of themselves – stylish, self-possessed fantasies with a tellingly mundane slant on the surreal.
Her is all of this and more. In an Oscars Best Picture field packed with true stories exploring important issues, Her stood with Gravity in defying the testimonial storytelling trend and instead mining the imaginative power of cinema. Where Alfonso Cuarón’s film deploys meticulous technical expertise to show us the mercilessness of orbit, Jonze’s wry-fi romance smartly conjures and then refuses to boringly shout about a near future keenly extrapolated from our own.
This future might look like one built on the pop-tech concerns of young affluent men – one of mobile computers, videogames and hipster waistlines – but really it’s one designed to stage a perceptive story about loneliness. Specifically, about the loneliness of Joaquin Phoenix, who plays a cursed creative in the tradition of Jonze’s existing protagonists, a man who writes other people’s letters for a living. The artificiality of this full-time emotional surrogacy finds a parallel in the movie’s central relationship, as Phoenix falls into an interdependent romance with the operating system on his ubiquitous computer.
This is new for Jonze, whose head-trip scenarios so often end with inward delight at their clever at-one-remove- ness. Her manages more, and explores something prescient and pressing by interrogating the emotional legitimacy of our relationships with things.
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