By Devin Casey (Lincoln, NE)


It’s 2014, and I’ve just seen the best film of 2013?

Spike Jonze has a gift. There are many filmmakers that know how to frame a shot, how to light a scene, or how to structure a story, but there are few who can so effortlessly convey true emotion through cinema. I don’t think there are many that would disagree with me when I say there should be more Spike Jonze films.

The entire year I have been waiting for the movie that would absolutely blow me away. And within the first twenty minutes of Her, I knew this was going to be the one. Everything about it is unique and fresh. From its style, tone, and humor, to its heart. As absurd as the entire concept of the film sounds on paper, it is probably the most human story to be told all year.

After another perfectly realized film, it seems clear that Spike Jonze has a deeper insight to the human soul than anyone else in Tinseltown right now. There is an emotional resonance in his films that transcends the typical Hollywood drivel. It feels real, personal. Whether it be the relationship between a boy and his imaginary friends or a man and his operating system; you feel it; you connect with it.

By mixing both the good and the bad of life, Jonze creates full cinematic experiences that draw us in. We go through the ups and downs with his characters, who are fully fledged rather than cardboard cutouts. In that, we can genuinely sympathize with their plight, no matter how benign it might seem. When I see a film like this, it reminds me of everything that is wrong with so called “hard hitting” dramas, where bad thing after bad thing happens and the only sympathy we can muster for the characters is that there life is so unbelievably horrible that we have no choice but to feel sorry for them. Life does not exist in a cone of sorrow. You cannot have the bad without the good. It is only through joy that we can understand loss, and only through sadness that we can appreciate the joy. This connection is what brings Jonze’s characters to life. We understand them, because they are us.

Of course none of this would be possible without actors capable of just being human onscreen. Even if that humanity is just their voice. In what is essentially a two person show, Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson memorize. Every moment is completely believable within the context of their interactions and you truly do buy in to their relationship.

There is nothing better than a film that turns out to be a mixed bag of emotions. Where logic and reason give way to thoughts on how you feel about the outcome. It is original, funny, depressing, inspiring, and heartfelt all at once. It is a pure example of what can be accomplished when a director truly cares about his craft.

Rating: 10/10

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