HER : A Film Review

Spike Jonze directs.
We are ahead of ourselves. The future has not arrived. A broken heart need not the computer love this narrative prophesies. If anything it closes a journey or pathway for Joaquin Phoenix while destroying his self identity.

In this story he is not without hope however despite the contentment sought which is a concept the near future apparently commodifies.
Even down to his job as a writer hired to create something the real world needs. The scope is a clean, banality yet a hive of life lived or so the superficial environment in which there are bartenders, buses, monorail and a constant – imagine a biosphere where you cannot see the stars perhaps see the occasional cloud – kindly warm atmosphere, insanely white and cosmetic. No product placement but a funny fashion bypass is dispensed.
Buttons, high waistbands and impractical homes exist. Kitchen etiquette is lost if it exists at all. Neighbourliness is Amy Adams as a friendly ear with her own partner. No hanky panky is on Theodore’s agenda whose interest in another is entirely off kilter with the love of his life having broken up with him. The Scarlett (Johansson) woman who has been his partner from College is adrift. Into the near world of altered reality. The unaccustomed but accepted vehicle to extract, enliven the cheerful demeanour of which Theodore is apparently constructed. She also voices as the other Her.

What will be the space we will exist in and how will that greatest of all mysteries – our relationships with a significant other or others – choosing partners for – a life – where is the how in the here and now? Back to the movie and what is your partner thinking just now?

The missing part for Theodore is the old one, ancient one of having a partner. Of this past relationship there has been no encumbrance of children though the near future, where break-ups seem common enough – and an virtual majority are in and around thirty something of age – there is a loss in the story of family and tonality. The love story is central though which is how it is being hyped. Good enough for that and a wonder enough for St Valentines Day. It works best when real folk confront each other though and some great one loners come out of the construct presented.

Will it ever be so? You have a sparkling escapism in store. Dovetailed love is requited, mirrored emotion and mutual but not all consuming need for shared and responsive reflection on your giving to another their needs.
The presence of skin is an issue. The complexities arrive.

The Theodore Twombly dilemma is that he has lost a partner that he loved so deeply he has yet to overcome his emotions and so immerses himself in a virtual answer to his physical loss apart from the retained mental loss. Flashbacks dialogue the moments of reflection of memory. No pretense is supplanted, in fact he believes in this new scenario as another level of relationship. So near future yet so far. Other self or Opposite sex. What is works, it seems to be still within grasp. Little tell tales of picking out visions of preference are an availability. In this world the evolution is developing the story, which holds only tenuously and it is not presumably intended to be much else, a morally unchallenging, jeopardy free, fear free place film environ into which the viewer escapes for a while. The film is not a situational flood. Did I say that? The flood is mind breached.

Awesome it is not. Pleasant it is. Law papers appear so there is an attachment to Law but so much order. The colours are peachy. Citrus.
Another one liner is eschewed but not squeezed.

Twombly you may know is the name of a celebrated American Contemporary painter, the celebrated Cy Twombly whose motive is abstraction with a mix of Impressionism and that provision of an escape route you are given with abstraction to make of it what you will.
He presents colour, distinctive present colour which this film is awash with.
It is a pseudo Cy Twombly canvas.
It is not a Rodin sculpture you can circle. It is not a Goya or portrait of realism which is intended to project the sitter or the artists perception of the subjects perception of themselves or their place in a picture, the picture being the time that is before them is a lesser art in Twomblys eyes.
I venture Twombly is present in Jonze mind as he paints mind states which are subtle as the now only. The now being visible from another direction at all times.

Spike Jonze is retrieving the person all through this movie by exposing frailties, vulnerabilities, limitations of us as we evolve in relationships and how challenging this is and ultimately rewarding it is and need, is thirst for another.
Taanith Esther’s is fast day on the 13th day of the month of Adar which is the sixth month of the Jewish calendar. I digress but there is a – as those familiar with the Jewish calendar will know – an intercalary month.
This occurred to me during the film. That in the stem of life we have there is another point, not a thirteenth month nor a elongation of time but a separation we enable or are enabled to inhabit along that stem we have as life. An abstraction invested in without time lapse or gain.
The film maybe supposes if this ‘future’ positions an additional dimension for us to create the other self or form we are. That we shall become capable at some point or other to do this. The server does not enable human development. The server is the restricted mind. A planet under control.
Everyone will react so differently in the given circumstances and if you take that home and relate the questions it appears to produce then the Spike has it nailed.
I can accept lack of certitude contained within us and thus allow contentions to intrude. This is after all how we adapt. What the film explores is how susceptible and natural we are. The denouement is not transgressive nor is the ending. So no flood?
The muse is the fabulous Scarlett Johansson as a virtualous, virtuous sparky, bright and beautiful fulfillment of self (Her) and himself. She is also Her the former partner. Is he – Spike – loosening a swipe – unworthy of her as a viewpoint of the male? The Her. It is a lame aspect if the Her is used as a virtual solution for male emotional expression. All the women are present but only through the male needs are they documented. No event of the woman alone in a similar place is explored. Hence lame.

As a muse, model woman, the artist is a contrivance, the embodiment that Scarlett inhabits, as the real woman Twombly loves sits outside vulnerably. Her is whom? Amy’s, real name Amy, own situation has Twombly enter the perfect therapy. He as therapist. A subtle inside scoping place within the story. The Her is one character and all.

It is an old fashioned triangle(ish) weave made in a colourful, delightful, insightful, forward thinking strangeness which helps uncover a cloudy view in our poor partial sight.

How does the story develop and how important is story to it?
If only we knew we wouldn’t watch films. Stories need telling.
The filmmaker uses the visual, the portraiture of faces, all real to tell it in a very well paced movie neatly scripted.

By the way the Cinema trailer which I have also seen is far too filling as an appetiser as is the habit these days but it is pathetic and does little for the audience except feel cheated.

Familiar territory this is with enough twists and turns to make you shake off moral judgement as it is here accepted it is not a fixed staple, this future now it ventures is a quest, is a pursuit of knowledge of ourselves and others through others and in the mutual behaviours we become conspiratorial but in a relaxing way! The fretfulness happens when another narrative arrives to be explored. Turn left or right or straight ahead but never backwards. There is no backwards.

John Graham
12 February 2014

Belfast. Northern Ireland.

Friday 14 February to Thursday 27 February 2014
QFT Queens Film Theatre
University Square


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