13th Sep2015

Irrational Man (Film)

by timbaros

WASP_DAY_03-0228.CR2Woody Allen’s 47th film, ‘Irrational Man’, sticks to several themes he’s already explored in a few of his previous films, and is not one of his best.

An older man being pursued by a younger woman is a plot device that Allen has presented to us many times before (Magic in the Moonlight and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger). In ‘Irrational Man,’ Joaquin Phoenix plays pot-bellied depressed middle age philosophy professor Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix). He’s the newest teacher at a small town college in Rhode Island. He’s single and doesn’t seem to have much going for him. However, two women vie for his attention; unhappily married fellow teacher Rita (Parker Posey) who fantasizes them running away together to Spain, and student Jill (Emma Stone). Jill is in Abe’s philosophy class, and she is mesmerized by his teachings and his stance on life. They start to spend lots of time together outside of the classroom, much to the dismay of Jill’s perfect boyfriend Roy (Jamie Blackley). Abe tries and tries to resist the urge to sleep with Jill, though he has no trouble having sex with Rita. However, Abe’s relationship with Jill is becoming stronger and stronger, until he can no longer resist her, and they eventually sleep together. Jill is so smitten with Abe that she breaks the news to her boyfriend Roy that she wants to break up. The plot then takes a turn: one day at a diner Abe and Jill overhear a woman talking about a local judge who has ruled against her in a divorce proceeding and has awarded custody of her kids to her husband. She also tells the people she is with how the judge has destroyed her life. At this point Abe decides he’s going to do something about this woman’s problem. His decision rejuvenates him, it transforms him from someone who is aimless and depressed to someone who is full of life and energetic. And he actually does go through with his plan. Of course his actions are irrational, but to him they are rational. But does he think he’s pulled off the perfect crime?

There’s not much more to the film’s plot which is probably why it’s only 95 minutes. But Allen does get more from his actors than what the script provides. Phoenix is perfectly cast as the loner professor who struggles with his identity but is lucky enough to have two attractive women vying for his attention. Stone overdoes it a bit as Jill, the student who has a good thing going with Roy but sees something attractive in Abe that we don’t see. Stone played a similar role in Allen’s last film – ‘Magic in the Moonlight’ – falling for Colin Firth’s much older character. Posey is a delight as Rita, fantasizing about a life with Lucas in Europe. But Allen’s script doesn’t provide much magic, it’s humdrum at the very best in a film that can be categorized as not one of his best. It also won’t have much box office appeal here in the UK- in the U.S. the film has made a measly $3.7 million – a far cry from ‘Magic in the Moonlight’s’ total gross of $32 million. At age 79, we’re sure there’s lots more films in Woody Allen’s repertoire to redeem himself from this one.

15th Feb2014

Her – Film

by timbaros
images-101It is common nowadays to see people literally connected to their phones. It’s like a third hand for some, and for most it’s the one thing thing that they could not live without. Her, now in cinemas, takes the relationships with our phones even further in that it’s main character actually falls in love with his phone’s Operating System.
Theodore Twombly (played by an excellent and almost unrecognizable Joaquin Phoenix)  is the man who is in love with his phone. Well, he’s not actually in love with his phone but in love with the women’s voice who is the Operating System.
Twombly, recently divorced, fortyish, and obviously very lonely, is an expert letter writer (number 612 in his company) – people hire him to write personal handwritten letters to their loved ones. Set in a futuristic Los Angeles, Twombly’s life revolves around work, and his fascination with technology, which has him purchasing the latest gadgets with the most up-to-date systems. This includes his purchase of a new Operating System that is connected to both his computer and to his phone. However, this Operating System is not just a monotone voice with no personality (similar to Siri on Apple’s Iphone), it is a voice that appears to be specially made for him, a voice that he chose to be a woman. It is a very sexy female voice, whose name happens to be Samantha (the voice of Scarlett Johansson). In a world of futuristic looking buildings and lack of personal interaction, Her takes our relationship with technology (and specifically phones) to a whole different level (scary but perhaps realistic). Twombly is longing, perhaps hopelessly, to connect with that voice and hopefully with the person behind that voice. He is slowly falling in love with that voice, a voice that deep down he knows is just a voice. He tells Samantha his innermost thoughts, and starts telling people that he is in a relationship with Samantha. He even tells Samantha that “you helped me discover the ability to want.” But all Samantha is is the voice of a portable gadget and his computer.
Her messes with the idea (perhaps correctly) that we are all getting too dependent on our phones or laptops/tablets/desktop computers, that we are now living our lives talking, texting, socializing, falling in love – all done on our phones or on our computers. Twombly is not the only one who is in love with a voice, his upstairs neighbor Amy (Amy Adams) is also getting caught up in a relationship with the Operating System left behind by her estranged husband. And it seems that Twombly and Amy would make a perfect couple, but they both are so hooked on their device that they seem devoid of actually connecting to anyone real, anyone physical. Is this how our society will be in 20 years time? This proves just how strangely connected they are (and perhaps so are we) to technology.
Her is director Spike Jonze’s first film that he has written on his own. He wrote it three years ago over a long New York winter. Some of Her was shot in Shanghai which has shiny new skyscrapers and raised walkways, perfect for Her to show how people are in such a crowded city but yet strangely disconnected to each other. And as an added backdrop to the making of Her, Samantha Morton originally recorded the voice of Samantha, but in post production Jonze felt that Morton’s voice didn’t resonate the way he wanted it to. So he went with Johannson, who has perhaps one of the sexiest female voices in Hollywood.
Phoenix, who offscreen has a very strange and somewhat interesting reputation, originally felt that he was wrong for the part of Twombly, but his physical appearance in the film – glasses and mustache – make him look very unrecognizable. Phoenix takes his acting to whole different level in this film as most of the time it is just him (and ‘Her’) talking to each other, making us feel like we are watching a romance blossoming. Phoenix was very good in his last film – The Master – but in Her he is excellent.
Was Jonze trying to send a message with this film that technology is taking over our lives? That we are getting too dependent on technology and specifically our mobile phones? And that our mobile phones are never out of our sight for the reason being that we can’t live without them? Have a look around on your way home tonight. You’ll notice that most (if not all) of the people around you are on their phones, either listening to music, checking messages, playing a game, etc….or just simply holding it in their hands.
It takes a movie like Her to remind us that even phones can let us down, and that there is nothing quite like human interaction. Try it some time, you’ll like it.