Director Spike Jonze’s latest science fiction/romantic comedy is a not only a fun and interesting premise, but a sharp piece of societal onlooking. Taking on the idea of a man who falls in love with the artificially intelligent operating system that runs his computer seems like a easily dismissed topic, but in the hands of Jonze the film is nothing short of a masterpiece.
We start with an awkward anti-social type named Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix). He works, ironically for a company that writes heartfelt letters for those who can't do it themselves. The film takes place in the not so distant future where computers and artificial intelligence are now common place. Theodore's life is fairly mundane and routine, his letter writing is his only outlet. His job plays well as a juxtaposition of his own lack of ability to express himself to the outside world.
When walking down a public corridor, Theodore happens upon an ad for the OS1, a new operating system that promises a fully functioning custom artificial intelligence experience. Soon thereafter we see the unveiling of sorts of the OS1. Prompting unusual questions such as ones about Theodore’s personality and parental relationships the system begins to go fully online and Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) is born. Immediately you can’t help but to notice her ability to speak at a normal human cadance. This helps to get the audience through the premise of the man and machine connection. Samantha is no HAL9000 nor is she Siri. The breathy voice of Johansson lends to the notion of a real person just on the phone far away; making Samantha that much more valid. I found myself many times almost completely forgetting that this isn’t a person in this world, there would be no reveal in the end, no wizard behind the curtain. Instead, Samantha is as present and fully weighted as any other character in the film.
During Theodore and Samantha’s budding relationship we see some of his real life friends Amy (Amy Adams) and Charles (Matt Letscher) working through their own marriage, which seems at times to not be as even footed as a man and an operating system. This of course leads to the largest social on look of the film. Her asks the basic question of “what defines a relationship?” Its up to the audience to decide if what they have is valid. JOnze provides some breadcrumbs to move you along, but ultimately the decision is yours.
Theodore and Samantha’s relationship is simply beautiful in the greatest sense of the word. Two people who are trying to navigate the murky waters of what life has to offer, together. While Theodore is slowly recovering from his pending finalized divorce from his emotional train wreck of an ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara), Samantha is learning the infinite space in which she resides. Both growing as people together at completely different rates and possibly directions.
Jonze has truly reached auteur status with this film, and there is no turning back now. I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the cinematographer, Hoyte van Hoytema. His flair for dramatic imagery and positioning is as close to perfect as I’ve seen in a quite a while. Spike Jonze really impresses with long and deliberate shots of thought provoking silence, tasteful sex scenes with only your imagination at work. He brings you into both Theodore, and equally, Samantha's perspectives. Phoenix has often been cited as one of the best currently working actors in Hollywood. Her, amongst his many previous works, makes that claim again...with purpose. Last, but certainly not least, Scarlett Johansson is fantastic as Samantha. She is able to exude a naiveté and curiosity of a child in parts, and the maturity of a woman coming into her own in others. Her lack of physical onscreen time is never an issue. She makes her presence known from the beginning and it never lets up. Her joins a group of absolutely stellar films in its release year. Run, don’t walk to see Her.
[easyreview title= "Review of Her" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="5.0" overall= false]