Tuesday, May 27, 2014

(Spoilers) Her, Lost in Translation 2?

***SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers may be found in the post below about VARIOUS ITEMS. And I'm going to add in a bit of filler text here to limit how much of the main article gets shown in a preview. That should take care of most of it. Hopefully. And away we go. SPOILER WARNING. ***

Is Her the unofficial sequel to Lost in Translation from a decade ago? No, of course not.

It has, however, been a while since I haven't been able to get a movie out of my head. I've been renting some of the Best Picture Oscar nominees from 2013 including Dallas Buyer's Club, 12 Years a Slave, and American Hustle. All were excellent films and solidly entertaining, but it was Her that touched me the most. The last movie to have remotely the same impact was Silver Linings Playbook -- I'll leave that for another day.

Short and Dumb Summary
The short and dumb summary of Her is that in the future, a self-aware operating system (artificial intelligence) is created. Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) buys it, falls in love with it, and stuff happens. The end. Oh, and the operating system names herself Samantha (Scarlett Johansson).

Boring only on the Surface
This is not the most exciting movie. I described it to someone as 90% talking and mostly a one man show with Joaquin Phoenix. But it's not remotely that simple. The summary above ignores the divorce that Theodore is going through with Catharine (Rooney Mara), the relationship that develops between a man and a voice that has no physical form. It ignores his best friend Amy (Amy Adams) and the support they lend each other, and the end of her own relationship. Her is a character story and quite a tragic yet hopeful one.

Joaquin Phoenix does an incredible job despite being the only person with a physical presence in a majority of the scenes -- unless you count the prop phone and ear piece he speaks to Scarlett Johansson through. He's an entertaining actor and does the character justice. I loved Scarlett's voice acting. However, it was Amy Adams that got most of my attention. There's something about her scenes, her character, and the way she interacts with Theodore. I don't think it's just because she's sporting blonde hair -- first time I've ever seen her blonde.

What's so special?
I'm not going to lie: I love sad movies with happy-ish endings. Something about seeing people go through the worst and coming out better. I would classify Her as one of these movies. What really sets it apart is that it reminds me so much of Lost in Translation. Apparently, this may not be a coincidence because Spike Jonze, who wrote and directed Her, was once married to Sofia Coppola, who wrote and directed Lost in Translation. There are blurbs online about how Coppola's movie was influenced by her relationship to Jonze, and this was his answer. Not sure if true.

For me, it was the story and the setting. Both are movies about two "people" who meet, build an incredible relationship, and (massive spoilers) part ways in a beautiful fashion. Tragic and hopeful? There is something about saying "goodbye".

One is set in Tokyo and the other in a future Los Angeles, but apparently, Shanghai was used as a stand-in for L.A. So, one is set in Asia and, unofficially, so is the other. Something about the culture and the architecture.

Finally, Scarlett Johansson is in both movies. She's not seen in the newer one, but her voice is so unique that her presence if very much felt. It's a nice bridge between the two movies. And once again, Amy Adams plays a relatively small but crucial supporting role in this movie.

What an ending
I wrote this while looping the song that plays during the ending of the movie. Hearing this it play reminds me of Amy and Theodore sitting on the roof of their apartment building watching the sun rise at the end. Almost as good as seeing Bill Murray's car zip around Tokyo to "Just Like Honey" after giving Scarlett Johansson a proper goodbye. Two great works of art.

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