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Byron Shire
March 4, 2021

Cinema review – Her

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Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are (2009) struck me as being more down than upbeat.

Based on Maurice Sendak’s children’s book about a little boy living in a fantasy world, it might be argued that Jonze’s latest film Her features that same kid, only now grown up.

The time is the very near future, and it is distinguishable from today most singularly by the geeky high-waisted serge trousers that men wear.

Everybody is wired 24/7, including Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), who earns a living by composing handwritten letters for clients who, despite the triumph of cyberspace, crave more personalised connection.

It is a less-than-subtle irony, but it serves a purpose as we see Theodore fall headlong into the bubble-world of hyper communication.

Seeking love and affection and understanding, he finds it in Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), an OS (operating system). Jonze’s task is to make believable a relationship that, as recently as ten years ago, may have seemed both absurd and undesirable, but which has, like a coma, come to virtually swamp us and radically alter our perceptions of reality.

(When the movie finished, before the credits started to roll, the lights of mobiles flashed on as their willing slaves checked in for updates of whatever.)

Theodore is troubled by his condition, but not enough to abandon it as Samantha, like Dr Frankenstein’s monster, evolves a life of her own.

Stripped of its social comment – and that comment, admittedly, is in urgent need of being acted upon – the story itself comprises not much more than ‘boy meets girl’.

When the girl part of the equation is just a voice without a body, all the directorial skills of Jonze and the considerable acting ability of Phoenix cannot dodge the fact that you are watching rather too much of a bloke talking to himself.

Important, for sure, and done with a lyrical dreaminess, but in the end Jonze has one thing to say and he repeats it ad nauseam.

It’s too slow and way too long.

~ John Campbell

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