“Her” Review

Spike Jonze is known for directing off-beat stories, with a resumé including Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002), and the Christopher Walken/Fatboy Slim music video to “Weapon of Choice” (Look it up. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.). Her is no exception. The story is about Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely card-writer going through a divorce, who ends up buying and falling in love with his Artificially Intelligent Operating System (Voiced by Scarlett Johansson). While the writing credit for Being John Malkovich and Adaptation went to Charlie Kaufman, Her is both written and directed by Spike Jonze.

Her is set at an unspecified date, somewhere in the future, and it feels realistic. That’s the film’s strongest point; despite being a futuristic story about a guy who falls in love with an OS, it feels real. A ton of effort went into the production design to make it seem futuristic yet attainable. The dialogue feels natural and the story is beyond immersive.

Her never alienates its audience by shoving social commentaries down their throats. At its heart, Her is just a love story. There are social commentaries, but they are subtle and far from the point of the picture. Unlike many futuristic stories, Her doesn’t make the assumption that everybody is way too immersed in technology. A decent sized proportion of the extras are shown with new technology, but it’s not everybody. When Theodore reveals he’s dating his OS, he’s met with varying levels of acceptance. And the film makes a point of saying that it’s very rare for a person to fall in love with their Operating System.

Joaquin Phoenix anchors the film, often being the only person on screen. Scarlett Johansson is marvelous as Samantha, the OS. Part of Samantha’s character is that she’s growing all the time, and you can feel that in her performance. Having a character speaking off-screen and on-screen could have turned out disastrous, but Her handles it well, making the conversations between Theodore and Samantha feel like real conversations. Amy Adams plays Amy, Theodore’s neighbor and close friend. A lesser movie would have tried to force some romantic interest between the two of them, but Her doesn’t. The film just lets them be friends, and the characters are all the stronger for it. There are also some wonderful cameos in the film, including ones by Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde, and Rooney Mara.

I don’t really have any problems with the film. There was the logistical issue over who could hear the OS at times, but for me, that was about it. Her is an absolutely marvelous experience. It’s captivating from the first frame to the last. The performances are great, the script is second-to-none, and the score (by Arcade Fire) sets the tone perfectly. 10/10.

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