Joaquin Phoenix

January 16, 2014

Her

CREEPY

Her – Creepy

In the digital age, there has never been an easier time to find a partner and begin a relationship.  Whether it be a one-night stand, or something a little more meaningful, you can find “The Future (enter your name here)” quicker than you can send an e-mail these days.  However, there are others in the digital age that have decided that technology is a much more worth-while partner and have fallen head over heels with their smart phones, computers, and video game consoles.  Trust me, I love my phone and all my hi-tech gadgets, but they wouldn’t be able to replace the touch of a loving partner.  In Spike Jonze’s latest film “Her” he explores our infatuation with technology and how love can blossom from the most unlikely source.  It’s both a heart-warming and creepy exercise in film-making.

“Her” follows Theodore, played superbly by Joaquin Phoenix, a man going through a divorce and his own struggle to connect with people outside of his work, where he creates handwritten notes for strangers.  Looking for a new type of relationship, and to ease his own loneliness, Theodore purchases the new OS1 and we are introduced to Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.  Samantha, who is programmed to learn while in the care of Theodore, fills the void that was left when Theodore’s wife left, who is played by the overwhelmingly underwhelming Rooney Mara.  As their relationship continues, a bond is created that is both endearing and sweet, while still coming off as extremely creepy.

Once again, Phoenix is up to the challenge of carrying a film almost completely by himself.  He is the heartbeat of the film, appearing in nearly every single frame of “Her” and he is absolutely a delight.  It’s funny that just a few years ago he had had enough of Hollywood and was dead set on becoming the next great rap star.  Call him what you will, but when it comes to acting he remains one of the best in the business.

The supporting roles of Amy Adams and Chris Pratt are also strong, but if Phoenix is the heartbeat, than the soulful, husky, and seductive voice of Johansson is the soul of “Her.”  It’s very rare to be taken by a role that is solely voice-based, but the “chemistry” that Phoenix and Johannson share is something that needs to be seen and just goes to show how great of an actor Phoenix really is.  When you think about it he has to play off of himself most of the film and I don’t think most actors would be up to the challenge of creating something organic out of something that isn’t even there.  It’s reminiscent of Tom Hanks’ performance in “Cast Away” to a certain degree.

While “Her” showcases some great acting, it also showcases some very troubling and creepy moments.  Taking place in a not so distant future, will we become so jaded and self-involved that we will need the help of computers to show us how to be social and loving again?  Jonze has created a great conundrum where the act of being an introvert (talking/texting on your phone) is the only way to become an extrovert and enjoy life.  It’s fantastic psychology at work and is a touchstone for this current generation.

Overall, Jonze has created one of the most original love stories in recent memory.  It deals with people that have lost their way and need that extra push to get out and live a normal life, so to speak.  “Her” is a film that will surprise some, confound others, and probably creep out a few others, but that is what great films do; they make you feel emotion, want to talk about it, and maybe even make you want to become someone better.  That’s “Her.”

Fun Fact:  English actress, Samantha Morton, was originally the voice of Samantha before Scarlett Johansson was brought in to re-read all the dialogue for the film.

January 12, 2014

Simplistic Reviews Oscar Preview Podcast Trailer

Julie tries to fill in for ScarJo in the Spike Jonze Film Her.  Yeah…it’s as bad as it sounds. 

September 28, 2012

The Master

The Master – Comeback

I was sitting in the theater Friday morning/afternoon watching “The Master.”
………that’s it.  No funny little story, I was just literally watching “The Master.”  However, I will say; Welcome back Joaquin Phoenix.  My word, you’re good you!

In case you haven’t heard, both Paul Thomas Anderson (or P.T. Anderson for the mod set) and Joaquin Phoenix are back.  For Anderson this is his first film since “There Will Be Blood” in 2008, and for Phoenix, well, he started a rap career and “documented” himself in 2010’s “I’m Still Here” with the help of Casey Affleck, but this is his first “film” since 2008, where he appeared in “Two Lovers” (?)  But forget about the past, let’s discuss “The Master”, simply.

The basic idea of “The Master” is control and fervent belief.  The setting is just right (the film spans approximately from 1942-1950), and it makes complete sense.  After World War II, and the pre-Red Scare era, many people were looking for guidance and someone to believe in, and Lancaster Dodd (played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is probably on his way to another Oscar) is that man.  He takes in a disturbed Naval vet, played by Joaquin Phoenix (who WILL win the Oscar this year) as his protege, while Dodd’s son has become suspect of his father’s practices and teachings to his followers.

The film also stars Amy Adams as Dodd’s wife, and Rami Malek as Clark, Dodd’s new son-in law, who looks shockingly like Bruno Mars.  But this film is all about Phoenix, who gives the performance of his life, and I really didn’t think he had it in him.  Sure, he was great in “Gladiator” and “Walk the Line” but to create a character like Freddie Quell from the ground up is something to behold.  This is his comeback.

While movies by Anderson (“Boogie Nights” and “Punch Drunk Love”) have always been critically acclaimed they all seem to have a veil of inaccessibility and being a little too art house.  But do yourself a favor, if you like film and really enjoy acting, “The Master” is top-notch in all aspects, and hey, making fun of Scientology and cults is fun.

Fact Fact:  This is the fifth collaboration between Anderson and Hoffman, starting with “Hard Eight” in 1996.

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