I’ve been watching quite a few movies recently, and as chance would have it, I finished two excellent films a week apart, Her and Mud, which both happened to have three-letter titles and center around love. This planted a blog post idea in my head, so after digging around online and watching another three-letter movie (Ray), I present to you my first themed movie review post! Three three-letter movies about love – hope you enjoy and check these amazing films out!
Fresh off a Golden Globe win tonight for best original screenplay, Her is one of the most authentic movies about love that I’ve seen come out of Hollywood in modern times. Set in a technology-dominated futuristic LA, the film centers around a recently-divorced man who begins to fall in love with the lovely voice and personality of his intelligent operating system.
To put it simply, I thought this was one of the best movies of 2013, so good that I watched it twice over consecutive nights. Joaquin Phoenix is one of my favorite modern-day actors, and he doesn’t disappoint in his emotional and nuanced portrayal of Theodore Twombly, a lonely man grasping at the last strings of his separation with his now ex-wife and his desire for love and understanding. But it’s Scarlett Johansson who makes the movie work the way it does with her amazing voice – soft, down-to-earth, and completely…human.
While the concept is a strange one – a man falling in love with his operating system, it brings to light so many ideas and themes, from humanity’s increased dependence on technology to the complexity and unpredictability of love. The greatest irony may be that writer-director Spike Jonze delivers such a compelling love story with such an unexpected pairing, man and machine.
Mud is a coming-of-age drama set in a small river town in Alabama. Two teenage boys find a mysterious man named Mud hiding out in a small island on the Mississippi River and soon find themselves in an unlikely friendship and partnership with him. Little do these boys realize that their friendship with Mud will throw them into an incoming storm of trouble.
Many can relate to the anxiety and awkwardness of love during the teenage years, and this movie relates to the audience in spades. Ellis, one of the teenage boys, struggles with the concept of actual love versus his idealized view of it. As he finds himself in the middle of his parents’ impending divorce, it’s easy to see his inner anguish and confusion. I especially enjoyed the movie’s skillful combination of Ellis’ inner struggle with larger events happening around him – namely Mud’s circumstances and mysterious history.
Matthew McConaughey gives an award-worthy performance as Mud (2014 is going to be his year) and Tye Sheridan is perfect as Ellis – old enough to be dealing with profound issues, but young enough to still retain his childhood innocence. Apart from the excellent acting, the film is also a beautiful piece of work, shot on location in Arkansas and the Mississippi River.
When I started Ray, I was expecting a feel-good movie with a straightforward man-falls-in-love-with-woman-and-lives-happily-ever-after storyline. I was beyond wrong, and this two-and-a-half hour biopic of one of the most important musicians of the twentieth century does an amazing job of covering not just the victories, but also the personal demons, internal torment, and many hardships of Ray Charles throughout his life and storied musical career.
While not a love story in the traditional sense, Ray was a movie about a man’s love with two opposing forces – his music and his addictions. His love with his music brings him many things – a way to overcome his blindness, a beautiful and loving wife, and a strong career. Yet his addictions – women and drugs – also bring him solace in light of his struggles. The film does a great job building up this tension to a boiling point, and the resolution feels that much better because we realize greatness is achieved through hardship, and love – real love and not its substitutes – brings healing power despite past mistakes.
Jamie Foxx is phenomenal in this film, winning an Oscar for Best Actor for his beyond-convincing portrayal of Ray Charles. From Ray’s movements to his speech to his smile, Foxx has it down to the point where I couldn’t decipher between the two – it’s that good! The flashbacks were another nice touch that helped develop the characters more comprehensively and provided audiences a glimpse into what made Ray the man he was.