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Manohla Dargis on 'Her': Wrong on Pants, Wrong for America

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire December 18, 2013 at 11:28AM

There will be time to debate the merits of Spike Jonze's futuristic love story. But for now, let's talk about those pants.
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Her

It's not often that we at Criticwire have an opportunity to use the word "hero," but there's no other term for the bold stance Slate's Dan Kois has taken on the New York Times' review of Spike Jonze's Her. Kois has no qualms with the bulk of Manohla Dargis' review, or with her placing it on her alphabetical list of the year's 16 best films. His concerns stem from the following passage:

Her is even harder to imagine without Mr. Phoenix, an actor who excels at exquisite isolation. Wearing a tidy mustache and horn-rimmed glasses that temper his good looks with a hint of Groucho Marx comedy, his Theodore -- shoulders slumped and pants unflatteringly hitched up -- presents a harmless, defeated picture. At his most memorable, Mr. Phoenix plays wounded, stunted souls whose agonies are expressed almost reluctantly in halting words and somatic contortions, as in his brutal performance in Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master. His work in Her is quieter, more openly vulnerable than in The Master, yet, surprisingly, as powerful because, once again, it feels as if his character's solitude had been drawn from some deep, unarticulated place in Mr. Phoenix's own being.

It's not the assessment of Phoenix's performance that has Kois so much as the critique of his wardrobe: "Dargis's Her review is predictably ace except 'pants unflatteringly hitched up' is the wrongest thing she ever wrote," he said on Twitter. As the instigation of his colleague Forrest Wickman, he took it a step further:

Correx
Lancaster

Indeed, Phoenix's pants, and the pants of the movie's other co-stars, are awesome -- and they're high-waisted, not "hitched up." Though New York Post critic Lou Lumenick and others have compared them to the vintage horror of elastic Sansabelt slacks, the look is closer to vintage Burt Lancaster, seen at right. There will be time to debate the merits of Jonze's film, but first, we need to agree on its pants.

Update: Reader Josh Gardner points out that Opening Ceremony has a clothing line inspired by Casey Storm's Her costumes. Shop away.

This article is related to: From the Wire


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