How rare it is to see something that you’ve never seen before. Spike Jonze’s Her takes the romantic comedy/drama genre, one desperately in need of a genre-buster, and turns it upside down with one of the sweetest, most heartfelt films to come along in quite some time. In an era of catfishing and the Manti Te’o case, this story does not seem at all far-fetched and Jonze does a flawless job of questioning our reliance on technology and seriously posing this question: Do we really need another person to share our lives with, or just the illusion of it?
Taking place in the near future, the films stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly, a writer who will pen you the ultimate love letter to your significant other. He’s going through a bitter divorce with his ex, Catherine (Mara), and his days are all the same and un-fulfilling. That is, until he picks up the latest OS for his computer. Featuring stunning artificial intelligence designed to meet his every need, Theodore soon becomes entranced by the OS’s voice, Sam (Johansson), and her ability to support him emotionally. The two gradually fall in love while aware of the obstacles that such a relationship could pose.
As a commentary on our current society and a love story, Her is a success on all fronts. Not only is having your head buried in your phone or computer now acceptable, it’s practically expected. Jonze takes such behavior to the next level as one can only assume that the technology will evolve to become even more life-like. Jonze’s script touches on the familiar ups and downs of human relationships, but having the interaction come between man and machine adds a whole new depth to it. It feels real, and that’s the point. Joaquin Phoenix turns in perhaps the best work of his career; a beautiful, multi-layered performance of a decent man just looking for his soul mate. Johansson’s work is also stellar and not near as easy as it seems on the surface. We tend to downplay voice work as a bunch of actors in their PJ’s having fun, but Johansson keeps this film grounded with a soft-spoken, often sexy performance.
Her is as involving, touching, and heartbreaking as any film of the past decade. Jonze has accomplished a real feat in balancing the technology and the love story, thus creating an effective societal commentary as well as a study of what our minds and hearts really desire. It’s a gorgeous creation, and one of 2013’s finest films.
Studio: Warner Bros.
Length: 126 Minutes
Rating: R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity.
Theatrical Release: December 18, 2013 (Limited) / January 10, 2014 (Wide)
Directed by: Spike Jonze
Written by: Spike Jonze
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson (voice), Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde