The insidiousness and omnipresence of technology in our daily lives lay at the heart of Spike Jonze's surrealist love story between a shy, solitary man and a computer operating system in a futuristic Los Angeles. But neither does the director make the most of the ingenious premise he concocted, nor does Her supply any insights we haven't had before about the human/technology interface, engaging with its tale intellectually rather than emotionally.

     In many ways, it's as if Her is a feature-length expansion of Mr. Jonze's 2010 extraordinary love-among-the-robots half-hour I'm Here, replacing that short's burnt-out, worn-out colour scheme and appeal to emotion with a rainbow-coloured, glossy, hipster high-tech sheen. But it also reveals both the flaws in the director's scripting and the limits of a visual and narrative inventiveness that seems to work best either in short bursts or when Mr. Jonze is directing somebody else's writing. That was already an issue in his adaptation of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, where the script undermined the required magic at every point. Here, scripting on his own, the director keeps piling on incidents without realising everything he wanted to say about looking for love in a world too absorbed in itself has pretty much been said in the first half, with everything else coming on as "more of the same".

     To be sure, there are many pleasures to be had in this quirky tale of a man who seems to feel more at ease speaking to his computer than engaging with those around him. Joaquín Phoenix's hyper-controlled performance, Amy Adams' next-door neighbour and Scarlett Johansson's voicing of "Samantha" (substituting Samantha Morton, whose original voiceover was discarded by Mr. Jonze) are all wonderfully spot-on performances, and there are truly remarkable, almost casual moments of filmmaking where the images say all there is to be said, underlining with gentle, sweet irony how it's human contact we need the most in a growingly digital universe but that is exactly what we seem to be shying away from. That's what makes Her such a well-attuned fable for our times, though it ends up being merely an overlong, well-packaged one that thinks it's much meaningful than it really is. Mr. Jonze remains a gifted filmmaker in search of a collaborator as gifted as him.

Cast: Joaquín Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pratt, Scarlett Johansson
Director and screenwriter: Spike Jonze
Cinematography: Hoyte van Hoytema (colour, widescreen)
Music: Arcade Fire with additional music by Owen Pallett
Designer: K. K. Barrett
Costumes: Casey Storm
Editors: Eric Zumbrunnen, Jeff Buchanan
Producers: Megan Ellison, Mr. Jonze, Vincent Landay (Annapurna Pictures in association with China Film Co-Production Corporation and Gung-Ho Films)
USA/China, 2013, 126 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, UCI El Corte Inglés 14, January 22nd 2014

Winner of the 2013 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay
Nominated for four other Academy Awards (Best Picture; Best Art Direction; Best Original Music Score; Best Original Song - "The Moon Song")


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