Update late 2019: Looking back on some old Joaquin Phoenix films with Joker raising such a ruckus, and I’m torn on Her after a six-year gap in viewing. The film certainly feels less monumental than it did six years ago, but that’s also a show of strength: quietly but demonstrably, critically but not-cynically, the film exhibits curiosity about relationships, identity, and the world, and its lack of capital-case textures and showboating maneuvers suggest the subtlety of its craft more than Importance ever could. That said, I’m less certain that Her’s curlicued production design affectations, while kept in check from garish Burtonesque grotesqueness or Wes Anderson-esque excess by Hoyte von Hoytema’s phenomenally diffuse, naturalistic cinematography, are actually the auto-critical gestures the film so clearly thinks them to be. The film’s look is still pointed, and still effective, but at times, it encroaches on the very mannered twee-ness that the style otherwise so thoughtfully diagnoses about modernity, so much so that the film seems cloistered and soul-bearing at once. Is it thoughtfully contradictory for the film to lean so clearly into its very object of critique, as though swirling around in its own critical gaze, or is it simply too-cute by half?
Original (Edited) Review:
After Where the Wild Things Are, I’d been waiting intently to see what writer-director Spike Jonze would do next. Create a fascinatingly mundane view of society and the individuals that populate it? Produce a gorgeous feast for the eyes that exists at odds with the dynamic, dreary visuality of most films today? Wring great, pointedly hollow performances of out some very talented actors, even one who doesn’t appear on camera? Create one of the finest, most honest romances of the new century, albeit between a human and an AI, without resorting to either cloying melodrama or judgmental pandering? Include not one but two very fiercely well manicured mustaches? Well he did it all and then some. Continue reading