In an indistinctly near future, a heartbroken man sits in his cubicle and completes an assignment: dictating a love letter for a couple who have been happily married for fifty years. The irony of the man’s work is not lost on him. In fact, it is one of the driving forces that creates an environment of loneliness that creeps into every aspect of Theodore Twombly’s life in Spike Jonze’s amazing, and Oscar-winning, unconventional love story Her, coming to Cinema Center March 7th.
From that first scene that tells you just about everything about Theodore (played brilliantly by Joaquin Phoenix), we understand completely why he would fall so head over heels in love with his artificially intelligent operating system Samantha, and in anyone’s hands other than Spike Jonze, the movie could have very well played like a bad joke. But it thankfully it doesn’t. The film cascades in emotions because its characters have either been numb for so long, or are just experiencing them for the first time. In many ways I think the film itself achieves something that Samantha is always on the verge of figuring out, it demonstrates a little bit of what it’s like to be human.
Her is one of the best head-scratching romances to come out in recent years but it is not the only one, and luckily most of us have made it through House of Cards by now and are looking for some films to fill up our instant watch lists . After experiencing Her at Cinema Center this weekend, go back home and watch some of these other great unconventional love stories available on Netflix streaming:
Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up to Magnolia features Adam Sandler in one of his most volatile, and sympathetic, roles as Barry, a novelty toilet plunger salesman whose one shot at romantic happiness is threatened by an extortionist phone sex operator and his seven sisters. Barry is a creature completely governed by his impulses, at one moment he is sweet and paralyzed by loneliness and in the next he is loud, confrontational, and capable of violence. It is Sandler’s performance, as well as the emotional abuse Barry receives from his sisters, that lets the audience feel okay about cheering him on in his quest for Lena, an English woman he barely knows but deeply loves. The film is elevated by great supporting performances by Luis Guzman and Philip Seymour-Hoffman.
Let the Right One In (2008)
This Swedish film could very well be about the first time someone falls in love, only for 12-year old Oskar, the object of his affection happens to be a vampire. Though the film finds itself occasionally its vampire horror film trappings, the central relationship between Oskar and Eli, the forever child vampire, is at the center of this moving film. Oskar is a bullied and lonely kid, until he meets Eli, and we applaud as Oskar grows as a result of being close to someone who is both strong and wise. Yes, the film gets very bloody and very gory, but it also has moments of great tenderness, and demonstrates the depths one will go for love, more so than I have seen in any film, horror, or otherwise.
Lost In Translation (2003)
Is there such a thing as platonic romance? This film by Sofia Coppola makes it seem as though that is possible as Bill Murray’s Bob and Scarlett Johansson’s Charlotte bond over a couple of nights in Tokyo. Bob is an aging actor, tired from life and having to make money by doing commercials for Suntory Whisky, while Charlotte is newly married to a photographer who gives his work more attention than her. They find each other in hotel elevators, hotel bars, and eventually in each other’s rooms, but the film is more interested in the differences between the generations the two characters come from and what they can teach other, than in any possibility for romantic entanglements, even though those desires are below the surface and almost come rushing out in one moment of anger later in the film. The naturalistic performances are enough to make the friendship believable, and the cinematography (sometimes guerilla-style) and soundtrack add to feeling we are just sitting in the same room as the relationship between these characters grows.
Some other great unconventional love stories to check out on Netflix are:
Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
Beauty and the Beast Television Series (1987) See Ron Pearlman before he put on his biker jacket in Sons of Anarchy or the make-up in Hellboy!
Jonah Crismore is the Executive Director at Cinema Center and Her was his favorite movie of the year.