Tag Archives: Amy Adams

Review – Her

her-movie-joaquin-phoenix

In the near future, a lonely sad sack falls in love with his artificially intelligent computer operating system. From a description of the synopsis it would seem Her’s thesis is all about our increasing connection to our technology, but in fact it has far more to say about the very nature of relationships. The film examines their very concept and how we form them and what it means to fall in love. It explores the expansive grey spectrum between platonic and romantic.

In doing so, writer/director Spike Jonze completely reinvents the romance genre. Up to now “Romance” has mostly become a tired, clichéd amalgam of tropes that rarely provides its passions with a foundation of true heart or warmth or depth, and hasn’t had anything new to say in ages. But Jonze digs deeper and uncovers a world of untapped beauty and complexity. His characters – despite the ostensibly “fantasy” setting – ring truer than most as they hold up a mirror to those of us sitting in the audience.

Joaquin Phoenix gives a remarkable performance. He is on screen the entire movie, and in a sense he has to carry the emotions of two characters in his face, as Samantha the operating system doesn’t have a face to express. That said, Scarlet Johansson finds a way to telegraph those wordless emotions expertly through a voice-only performance. Amy Adams, as the best friend, is fantastic as well. (I far prefer her here than her super-sexualized role in American Hustle.)

Arcade Fire’s score is more subtle than I would’ve expected from them, and perfectly complements the tone and atmosphere. But the real behind-the-scenes star is the work by production designer K.K. Barrett. It’s a simple subtle vision of the near future. Fashions, with the exception of a penchant for high-waited pants, aren’t all that different from today as you would expect from a “futuristic sci-fi.” Art and décor has a minimalist beauty. And the technology mixes modern and natural, from a brown leather-backed pocket computer to a gorgeous sleek wood-paneled desktop monitor. (Apple, get on this – I want that desktop for myself!!!)

Her received 5 Oscar nominations for Original Screenplay, Production Design, Score, Song, and Best Picture. All are richly deserved, and I would be excited if any of them won.

When I published my Top 10 list at the beginning of the year, this was the film I was most concerned about possibly leaving out, but it hadn’t opened in St Louis yet. Now that I’ve seen it, I know my concerns were warranted. If I can change my list (and I can, because it’s mine!), Her would tie with Nebraska for #2, right behind The Wolf of Wall Street and ahead of Gravity.

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Review – American Hustle

After seeing them both in the same weekend, it’s hard to talk about American Hustle without comparing it to the far superior The Wolf of Wall Street. Both are near-period pieces based on true stories. Both trade in themes of greed and corruption. And both are highly chaotic in terms of style and structure. But where Scorsese expertly sculpted his chaos into a specific vision with something to say, David O Russell seems content to throw a lot of parts on screen and hope that what sticks adds up to a cohesive whole. It doesn’t… Not quite, anyway.

Make no mistake, Russell is a supremely talented artist, working with a top-notch cast and crew – also like Wolf, both films have incredible performances from actors at the top of their game. His last two films, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, are among my very favorites in recent memory. Both were taut little character studies that hit home in small unexpected ways. This time he brings the same cast from both those films, but the characters all suffer from being drowned out by all their co-stars. A problem exemplified perhaps most fittingly by the 3 different narrators trading the story back and forth. It gets confusing, to say the least.

The standout performances are Jennifer Lawrence as a housewife like no other, Louis C.K. as a fantastically milquetoast FBI chief, and Amy Adams’ side-boob which, as amazing as Adams is, chews up more scenery, with more screen-time, than she or any other actor has the chance to compete with. But Lawrence has the biggest chance of an Oscar nomination, and it would be a deserved one. Along with her Oscar win last March and her performance in The Hunger Games 2, she’s having one hell of a year.

The technical standouts are the costumes, the outlandish hair, and as always Christian Bale’s physical transformation. Seriously that guy is going to die of heart failure in the next 10 years if he keep ballooning his weight up and down with every other film!

All in all, American Hustle is still a really good movie, but it’s not quite a great one.

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