Monday, February 10, 2014

Her (2013)

Title: Her (2013)

Director: Spike Jonze

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams

In order to truly understand Her, I suggest you first watch Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003), you see, there’s a connection between both of these films; one comes as a response of the other. This is not to say that you can’t get anything out of watching the film without understanding its back story, but you’ll get a whole different perspective on them once you understand where they are both coming from. So this is how it goes: once upon a time not so long ago, Sofia Coppola, the youngest daughter of legendary film director Francis Ford Coppola, grew up with quirky music video director named Spike Jonze; their friendship blossomed and grew until in 1999 they ended up getting hitched. So anyhow, to make a long story short, their marriage ended in 2003. In order to deal with the divorce Sofia Coppola, though denying it a first, wrote and directed a film that expressed her feelings on the break up; that film ended up being Lost in Translation (2003), which curiously was released on the very same year she divorced Jonze.

In Lost in Translation, Scarlett Johansson plays a woman who’s married to a photographer, played by a very loopy Giovanni Ribissi. The photographer is so wrapped up in his career that he completely neglects Scarlett Johansson’s character and she ends up befriending a much older man played by Bill Murray; they end up developing a platonic romance even though their age difference is huge. The loopy, sort of absent minded photographer was actually Sofia Coppola’s version of Spike Jonze. The way I see it, that character was a cartoon like version of Spike Jonze, it’s how Sofia Coppola saw Jonze. So if we are to read between the lines, we can deduct that Coppola felt neglected by Jonze during their marriage because he was so wrapped up in his film career, which was beginning to take off back then. “I was trying to figure it out when I was writing that” she said in an interview to ONTD. That’s one thing I can say about the Coppola’s: they make very personal films that talk about their life experiences, sure they’ll deny the hell out of it if you ask them, but truth is, they are simply sharing their life experiences with us. Beautiful thing about these films is that even though they are extremely personal in nature, we can still enjoy them and get a lot out of them because they are genuine reflections of the human spirit, of what it means to be ‘us’. Her is another good example of an extremely personal film; detailing the thoughts and situations that go into a divorce. 

Jonze sets up a shot

So, fast-forward ten years later and now its Spike Jonze’s turn to address how he feels about that divorce. From what I can tell after watching Her, I think it’s safe to say that it was Jonze who ended up the most heartbroken from that divorce and he projects himself in the character of Theodore; a very sensitive man who truly misses his wife and can’t seem to stop remembering the good times he had with her. This film feels as if ten years later, Sofia Coppola still lingers in Spike Jonze’s soul. In that same interview to ONTD , Sofia Coppola mentions that “Spike didn’t end well” so I’m not just talking out of my ass here. Jonze was truly broken up and we can definitely pick that up from watching Her. So, it is understandable then that the main character in Her; Theodore Twombly, is mopy and anti-social; he can’t take the fact that he is about to divorce his wife Catherine of many years; who by the way looks a heck of a lot like Sofia Coppola! 

Many other things let us know that Her was made in response to Lost in Translation; Scarlett Johansson was the main character in Lost in Translation, while on Her she plays the voice of the operating system for which Theodore falls head over heels for. In the film, Theodore and Catherine grew up together which made the divorce that much more difficult, same as with Jonze and Coppola who also grew up together. Actually, if we want to get really detailed, some shots in the film are extremely similar, starting with Theodore’s room which looks a heck of a lot like Scarlett Johansson’s hotel room in Lost in Translation. Point is, if you want to really understand Her, you should watch Lost in Translation while keeping all these things in mind. Just remember that in Her, Theodore is Spike Jonze’s alter ego, while in Lost in Translation Charlotte was Sofia Coppola’s alter ego. The difference between the two films is that they are told from different points of view, one film is from the female perspective, while the other shows us the males point of view; which instantly makes both films all the more fascinating to me. It's like hearing both sides of the story; interesting thing is that both of them make sense in their own ways. They both got interesting points to make, and we can learn a lot from both films. 

But trust me, you don’t need to know any of this to enjoy Her, seen without all the context behind it, you can still get a lot out of it. The film works on two fronts:  it works as a comment on relationships, break-ups and male/female dynamics, while at the same time it throws a bit of commentary on society’s current obsession with social media and technology. Her is not for everybody, its a very cerebral film, which relies heavily on dialog, so if you like that in your films, you'll love Her. It seems to me that a lot of people where having a difficult time digesting the fact that Theodore was falling in love with a computer program. But you can’t go in thinking this is a silly premise, after all, this is a science fiction film, we are here to escape into a fantasy world where anything can happen. Her takes place in a slightly futuristic version of L.A., which by the way, Spike Jonze brilliantly shot in China, making China look like a futuristic version of L.A. How genius is that? So anyways, be ready for a film in which the main character falls for an artificial intelligence. What I loved about it is how Theodore’s obsession with his computer program represents our obsession with technology, an obsession that only serves as a way to alienate us from real human contact. Take a bus or a train and you’ll see more than half of the people connected to their phones, i-pads and I-pods, sometimes all at the same time! Are we growing apart as a human race? Are we in desperate need to reconnect with our fellow humans? Well yes we are and I’m glad we have films like Her to point that out.

Rating: 5 out of 5   


Dan O. said...

Good review Francisco. Was definitely one of my favorites from the last year and I hope that this means that Jonze will keep on making movies. Or, at least not take so long in between anymore.

Franco Macabro said...

Im pretty sure this one is making it's money back, I know because I work right next to an arthouse theater...and I see all these kids flocking to go see Her cause they know Jonze is a maker of weird films. I would have added in my "Best of the Year" list, but I only got around to seeing it last week. Still, make no mistake, I also thought it was one of the best of 2013.

Unknown said...

Awsome review Franco! Love it

Franco Macabro said...

Thanx bro, glad you enjoyed it, hopefully you'll see the film differently now!


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