Cert: 15 Runtime: 126 mins Director: Spike Jonze Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara and Olivia Wilde
Falling in love is a crazy thing to do. It’s like a socially acceptable form of insanity
Spike Jonze doesn’t make many feature releases but when he does they are fantastic. When I was growing up I always knew him for making music videos for some awesome bands and featuring now and again on Jackass. It took me a while to watch Being John Malkovich, when I did it was just phenomenal. After this Adaptation and Where The wild Things Are mesmerised me. I’ve known about Her for a while now, it has grabbed my attention ever since I heard about it. So what is Her about? A lonely man falls in love with his computer’s advanced operating system in this funny and touching sci fi romance. In near-future Los Angeles, sensitive writer Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) struggles to get over the break up of his marriage to Catherine (Rooney Mara). He makes his living writing moving personal letters for others, even as he retreats from the world in his own life. Then he installs a new artificially intelligent computer operating system, which introduces itself as Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Seductively voiced Samantha is intuitive, sensitive, witty, compassionate and filled with wonder at the nature of life and romance. As she learns and develops, so Theodore becomes increasingly entranced by his artificial companion. Before long, their friendship has deepened into love.
I’ll touch on a couple conventions or concepts Jonze tackles in the film, but bear in mind that these explorations are never out of place and contribute to completing the story:Her is sexually fascinating. Jonze asked honest questions about the nature of sexuality in a relationship between a human and an AI, and he even considered the AI’s potential insecurities over the inability to interact physically. From there he dives into considering how people might circumvent the issue and what complications might arise from such a situation. Jonze is entirely honest about the spectrum of sexuality and applies it to the story well. Jonze explores the isolating effects of technology, especially for Theodore, who escapes into entertainment and information after a separation from his wife. Samantha seemingly brings him out of his technology cocoon, but, considering that she herself is technology, we wonder if he’s isolating himself or not. Is she a companion? Beyond these social ideas explored through the film’s concept, Jonze greatly expands upon the implications of AI, especially the potential for AIs to form communities. The acting was all around excellent as can be expected from such a capable group of actors and actresses. Joaquin Phoenix is impressive and nuanced as always. He plays timid, heartfelt, odd, and sad very well.
This role is so entirely the opposite of his last performance as Freddy Quell in The Master which, while being maybe the greatest performance in a decade, doesn’t overshadow the emotional depth and authenticity he displays through Theodore. Scarlett Johansson brings a lot of energy and life into her role. Her job here goes beyond what most voice acting requires since there’s no animate analogue (as there would be in most voice acting situations) to lend to expression. This movie simply would not have worked as well if the actress voicing Samantha didn’t bring the necessary humanity and emotion into the character. Luckily Johansson knocked it out of the park. The supporting cast was excellent. Most movies have that one miscast in the secondary, but you won’t find it in Her.Beyond the well-developed concept and the keen observations was just plain old great writing. You can have a great concept and cool ideas to explore, but if the dialogue is crap you’re done. Every conversation is developed with great care and that special quality that makes for interesting writing. Writers like Jonze, David O. Russell, Woody Allen, et cetera have that gift for interesting writing and Jonze pulls out his best writing by a considerable margin. Every bit of it is that 10% of gold found in most films.There’s a ton more to analyze and critique, but I don’t want to give any spoilers and that sort of stuff is better suited for an essay or something anyway. Hopefully something I said was enough to get you to experience this film. It deserves more awards attention, I do hope Spike Jonze does get the recognition he deserves.