Upon hearing the concept for Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’, one might find the whole thing to be very weird. Basically, the movie is a guy falling in love with his computer. It’s the equivalent of someone falling in love with Siri. However, instead of a corny, B-list sci-fi flick, we’re presented with a deeply emotional film that explores some interesting parts of the human condition that many of us probably never thought to ever explore. Yet, with the world evolving technologically every day, ‘Her’ gives us a bizarre love story that we can take more away from than we initially think.
In ‘Her’, Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombly, a personalized greeting card writer that has been dealing with a bit of depression because of his divorce. One day, he discovers a brand new artificially intelligent operating system for his computer called OS1 that becomes personalized for every user. After installation, the OS (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) dubs herself Samantha and begins learning about the world “around” her thanks to Theodore. The film explores how the two enter a romantic relationship that changes both of them significantly.
The first thing that stands out about this movie is the phenomenal performances by the cast. It definitely helps that they had such a wonderful script to work off of, but these actors and actresses took it to a whole other level. Even the ancillary characters played by Olivia Wilde, Rooney Mara, and Amy Adams were very good with their parts, but naturally the standouts were the two leads. Before I can even comment on Phoenix and Johansson’s performances, I have to mention the unique manner in which the movie was filmed. Literally, ScarJo wasn’t on set for shooting. Someone else was reading lines to Phoenix while they were shooting and the actress put her voice in during post-production. Despite the unorthodox process, both performers were able to squeeze out such incredibly emotional performances. For Johansson, all of her tools as an actress were taken away from her since her character was only a voice, but that’s all that she needed to create such a full and complex character that the audience felt for despite not seeing her at all onscreen. In Phoenix’s case, the majority of his scenes were of him talking to Samantha, so he didn’t really have anyone to react to on set, but you would never know it. Both of them just connected flawlessly and they both showed how skilled they are at their profession by evoking such feelings despite the unconventional circumstances of their relationship. The two of them totally sold me on everything and it’s really a shame that the Golden Globes deemed Johansson ineligible for any awards for this role.
Moving on to the appearance of the film, Jonze managed to make loneliness and solitude look so beautiful. There were a ton of scenes that were simply made better because of how they were composed. Even during the scene where we were just presented with a black screen for an extended amount of time. Also, the set design and things of that nature definitely helped as well. From what we can see, ‘Her’ is definitely set in the future, but the not-so-distant future. What it boils down to is that the filmmaker definitely took some risky choices that all completely paid off in terms of the look.
As I mentioned earlier in passing, the script was simply brilliant. The characters of Theodore and Samantha were so rich and complex and they each went through quite a compelling arc. However, if there was one thing that bothered me slightly about the whole film, it was the denouement. While it was something that was hinted at throughout a good portion of the second act, it seemed to come out of nowhere and wasn’t explained much. It was almost as if the writers were saying, “Oh wait. We need this to happen to get to the end.” But rather than getting an explanation, it just happens in a way that was still acceptable, yet it left me questioning it a bit. Don’t get me wrong, this little thing didn’t make the film any less awesome for me. I can still say with confidence that ‘Her’ is one of my favorite films of the year, but there were a few details at that point in the script that I had to question.
As a side note, I formed a theory that if these movies took place in the same timeline, then ‘Her’ would be what happens before Skynet takes over in ‘Terminator’. Then, centuries later, that’s when ‘Wall-E’ happens. I don’t want to give away what makes me say that because it’s a spoiler, but go see the film twice and think about this theory during the second viewing.
Anyway, as you can probably guess, I loved ‘Her’. Whether you’re a fan of science fiction or not, I highly recommend checking it out. At the end of the day, it’s a touching love story that deeply explores the inner workings of a relationship, so there’s something for everyone, even if you’re not usually into a more indie feel. And while the Academy and I don’t often see eye to eye, they’d be total fools if this movie didn’t get some sort of recognition for Spike Jonze, Scarlett Johansson, and Joaquin Phoenix.
‘Her’ starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, and Rooney Mara is now playing in Los Angeles and New York, but it hits more cities on January 10, 2014.