Theaters are constantly littered with movies that take place in the distant future, filled with aliens and super humans wearing robo-suits. We’ve seen these movies. Some are great and entertaining. But the “Spike Jonze Love Story” Her takes place in a different future, a more realistic, not-so-distant time, portrayed by Jonze in thought-provoking ways.
Theodore Trombley, played by Joaquin Phoenix in a fantastic, sweet, puppy dog-like performance, is recently divorced. He’s mopey and distant and keeps to himself. His personality at the beginning of the film is a stark and fascinating contrast with the fact that he is a professional love letter writer, a futuristic profession where couples hire someone to write their love letters for them. The way Jonze showcases Theodore’s futuristic work computer is day-to-day sci-fi cool. The screen transcribes in script on letter paper whatever Theodore says. And what he says is pretty damn good. Trombley is an incredibly gifted romantic writer, which shows this depressed man’s passionate side and ability to love. Flashbacks further inform us of these facets of his life by portraying Theodore smiling and affectionate with his ex (Rooney Mara), as well as displaying scenes of animosity and sadness leading up to their breakup.
In the future portrayed in Her, the current world where everyone walks around typing on their cell phones is replaced with a world where everyone walks and talks to their own individual voice recognition app – their own “Siri.” At the beginning of the movie, Theodore has a male voice that reads his emails, dials his phone calls, basically does everything for him that we now use our fingers for on our phones (that is, unless you actually use Siri the way they do in the Apple commercials). The first 10 minutes of Her bring you right in to Theodore’s current state. He meanders around completely isolated, headpiece in and talking only to this male voice, barely making eye contact with anyone as he keeps his head tilted down at all times. In other words, this guy is in need of connection.
Theodore decides to upgrade to the new OS (operating system) available. The new OS’s have independent thoughts, make decisions based on logic, understand emotions, and engage and converse exactly as humans do, except they know every fact about everything and are genius in every way. Theodore decides to have a female speaker this time and lucky for him, his OS has the sexy, beautiful soothing voice of Scarlett Johansson. “Samantha” is witty, brilliant, funny, caring, understanding, supportive…everything Theodore needs. Their relationship blooms and the rest of the movie follows the intricacies of being best friends and cyber lovers with an OS, something that becomes more and more popular in the futuristic world the movie takes place in, to the point where Theodore can outwardly acknowledge that his girlfriend “is an OS.” Their relationship brings Theodore back to life, which he discusses is due to being with someone who is experiencing the world for the first time and trying to take in all it has to offer.
Theodore views the world again through rose colored glasses with Samantha and, with his phone in his pocket, he regains the ability to feel joy and pleasure and the desire to explore and laugh and love. The movie portrays the difficulties, the joys, and the ups and downs of this unorthodox relationship and how the two beings cope while in it. This provides the movie with such interesting, emotional, psychological-based content! Despite Samantha not having a physical body, the relationship is beyond intimate, completely romantic, and just plain sweet and lovely. The sad bittersweetness of the movie comes from what it means to never be able to kiss or caress or touch the cheek or make love to who you love.
I was very curious to see what Johansson would be like in this movie. She has been getting rave reviews and even provoked discussions in the entertainment world hypothesizing whether she would be the first voice-only performance to be nominated for acting awards in a non-animated film category. The part/performance definitely lived up to the hype. I was completely in love with Samantha right alongside Theodore and the way I yearned for her to appear next to him so they could hold each other made me think about how utterly Theodore must be feeling that way. And the fact that I had those thoughts shows how well this movie is made and how wonderful the leading performances were. I was completely sucked in.
Phoenix was excellent in his role as well. He portrays Theodore superbly. He makes the character lovable, sympathetic, and genuine but also a true imperfect person with flaws. This allows the parts where Theodore makes mistakes to seem all the more real. The screen is predominantly showcasing Phoenix and his face and all the subtle expressions and feelings portrayed on it. He truly carries the movie brilliantly. Amy Adams has a nice supporting role as Theodore’s friend and Rooney Mara portrays just right the role of Theodore’s volatile, emotional ex.
Her is overall a very fine film. It makes you think, it makes you laugh, it makes you cry and it is filled with stellar performances. There are so many touching moments, most notably a scene where Theodore, playing the ukelele, and Samantha, singing, come up with a song together right there on the spot. The song, “The Moon Song,” was just nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar, but do yourselves a favor and do not look it up online until seeing the movie. The scene is beyond touching and sweet and if you listen to the song first, you might not enjoy it as much. Samantha composes pretty piano pieces for Theodore spontaneously throughout the movie, making for a lovely soundtrack for their romance and for the movie in general, resulting in a Best Score Oscar nomination. All the right people are appreciating this movie alongside myself, as Her was also Oscar nominated yesterday for Best Movie, Best Original Screenplay (Spike Jonze wrote as well as directed the picture), and Production Design (for the team that designed the movie’s futuristic but realistic L.A. setting/environment.
There are currently wonderful movies showing in theaters but if you want a quiet, provocating, and inspiring movie, you will truly enjoy this tale of sweet futuristic love and loss.