It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie that has so completely changed the way I feel and the way I feel about feelings. Quotable, profound, lovely and heartbreaking all at the same time, “Her,” directed by Spike Jonze (“Where the Wild Things Are”), is a film that lives up to the hype and delivers a complete experience about love, heartbreak and moving on. It’s an experience about life.
First and foremost, one will immediately recognize that “Her” is excellently cast. Boasting a formidable line-up, it stars Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”), the voice of Scarlett Johansson (“Don Jon”) and Amy Adams (“American Hustle”). It also features an impressive list of supporting actors, like Rooney Mara (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), Chris Pratt (“Parks and Recreation”) and the voice of Kristen Wiig (“Saturday Night Live”), to name a few.
In the film, Theodore Twombly (expertly played by Phoenix) is a letter ghostwriter who is having trouble finalizing his divorce. Although not explicitly stated, “Her” takes place sometime in the not-so-distant future, where most aspects of everyday life (work, social, entertainment, etc.) are supplemented, enhanced or completely overtaken by technology, not unlike what’s happening in today’s world. That’s where Johansson’s character comes into play. After seeing an advertisement (which, by the way, perfectly parodies the “cutting-edge” artsy-ness and inflated sense of importance that many tech commercials exude — cough, Apple) for a new operating system, or OS, Twombly promptly goes to update the operating systems of his work, home and personal computer, which is essentially two small iPhones hinged together with cameras on both sides and a wireless ear-bud used for listening and communicating with the OS. What’s so special about this newest OS is that it’s the first to be programmed with an artificial intelligence and personality, both of which grow and change with the user to perfectly carry out her or his tasks and needs through an interface that, for all intents and purposes, is human.
After being asked a comically short number of “seed questions” by the set-up software, Twombly is surprised to hear the bubbly, sunny and disarmingly charming voice of his new OS, Samantha (superbly voiced by Johansson). The two immediately hit it off and before long develop a strong connection that turns romantic when both realize that they are literally perfect for each other. As their relationship progresses, internal and external forces challenge their love for each other, making both Twombly and Samantha consistently re-evaluate their definition of love and what it means to be in a relationship, especially when one person doesn’t have a body.
Jonze does a great job of subtly exploring these themes — like the relationship between humans and technology, how technology is affecting human interaction and where this society could be heading — without landing on a definitive answer or applying any absolute morals to these ideas.
Exceedingly vulnerable and brutally honest, Phoenix’s Twombly is a remarkably sympathetic romantic who has the audience on his side every step of the way, even with all of his faults and flaws. If anything, it’s his faults and flaws that make him so relatable, like how he admittedly went on a date just because he wanted to satisfy his sexual desires or how he gets frustrated with Samantha when societal pressures make him question whether or not his love for her is true.
Johansson does an incredible job, too. For a character that has zero screen time, the level of sincerity Johansson is able to convey using just her voice is spectacular. Colorful, enthusiastic and heartfelt, it would be damn near impossible not to fall for an OS as likeable and captivating as Johansson’s Samantha.
“Her” is a must see for anyone seeking a profound, unbiased examination about human’s capacity for love. It is also for anyone who wonders what love and life actually are if they are experienced by a person who in essence is human but lacks the fundamental components used to define humanity.
4.5 out of 5 stars