Published on March 8th, 2014 | by Allan Brown4
Movie Review: Her (2014)
Running Time: 126 mins
Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Spike Jonze
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson and Rooney Mara
Plot: A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.
From his early days as a fresh and creative music video director for artists such as Fatboy Slim, The Beastie Boys, and Björk, Spike Jonze has continued his unique style and original approach with his feature length films, effectively carving out niche in the film industry for himself. It could be said that Spike Jonze has provided some of the most imaginative comedies and thought provoking offbeat dramas the industry has seen over past decade and a half. From his inspired collaborations with the prolific writer Charlie kaufman in Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, to his adapted screenplay of Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are, Jonze continues to prove himself as not only an important film-maker of his time but also a wonderful screenwriter, and his latest feature Her starring Joaquin Phoenix might just be his magnum opus.
The story which is essentially a study of human behaviour centres around Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a socially shy, middle aged man who balances his work as a personal writer of handwritten letters (for faceless clients), with the remains of his crumbling marriage to Catherine (Rooney Mara). While Theodore’s life of solitude is fairly recent, his nights are clouded with an unbarring sense of sadness and loneliness.
However, when Theodore catches an ad for the new artificial intelligence system – OS1, an intelligence system that not only guarantees to meet the owners every need and desire but is also fully customizable to match the owners every preference.
Jonze continues to prove himself as not only an important film-maker of his time but also a wonderful screenwriter, and his latest feature Her starring Joaquin Phoenix might just be his magnum opus.
Indeed the OS1 is not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness, both intuitive and understanding. It knows its owner. It not only assists Theo in his day to day life by organising his diary, sending emails on his behalf and suggesting music for him try out, but more than that, the OS system becomes a companion for him, and soon enough Theo finds comfort, friendship, and a romantic attachment towards his operating system, named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Although Samantha is a faceless artificial intelligence system, she effectively fills the void in Theo’s life left by his failed marriage, brining both joy and happiness to his world again.
And there lies one of the many questions director Spike Jonze explores, challenging us on our preconceived notions of what makes a relationship real and indeed, what it means to be alive?
On the surface Her plays out like a classic, all be it, tragic love story, that steadily moves from point A to point B without much complexity. However, this is a Spike Jonze film and so, even with the lightest scratch of the surface (if you dare) presents an array of important and thoroughly thought provoking themes. He challenges our preset ideals and instilled beliefs as a society and more importantly, as human beings. Asking us –
♦ If Love is infinite, should we strive and be open to it in whatever way it presents itself if it makes us happy?
♦ If we can create near human intelligence systems, what is our responsibility to them and what is their relationship to us?
♦ If our computers and artificial social intelligence systems filled the void in our lives, would we need any other humans to interact with and if so what would be the consequences to society?
The film itself takes place in a near future utopia where cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema bathes the screen in saturated pastel colours of red, pink, blue and orange. The colours and tricks of the light throughout as well as the set locations effortlessly bring the film to life, and along with the memorable soundtrack collectively weave the very fabric of the film.
Joaquin Phoenix is again sublime in the title performance. He displays a vulnerability that embodies the very essence of his character Theo. There was always a risk of having Theo come across as perhaps creepy and odd, but the tenderness in which Phoenix portrays his character has us sympathising and identifying with from the offset. Amy Adams also turns out another stunning yet restrained performance in the supporting role. She is a actress that fails to disappoint in each performance she offers and Her is no exception. Scarlett Johansson proves her impressive acting range as the voice of the faceless OS system. Her emotional sensitivity and understanding help assist the audience to empathize with Samantha making the situation all the more REAL.
However, it is in the writing that Her truly soars. The strength of the script, the dialogue between characters and the ideas explored are essential to making the film work and this is testament to skill of Spike Jonze as both a director and screenwriter.
Summary: Her is a poetic love story that elegantly tackles some complex themes along the way. The performances, writing and cinematography all weave into the fabric of the film effortlessly, in what is one of the most original, poignant and thought provoking films of the year...so far.