PHOTO BY ANNAPURNA PICTURES
Where is it playing?: The Palm
What's it rated?: R
What's it worth?: $10.00
Writer-director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are) helms this story about a lonely writer (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with an operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) designed to meet his needs. The film also stars Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Rooney Mara, Bill Hader, and Kristen Wiig.
For a film with a tech-centered, sci-fi premise set in a gleaming, gentrified version of Los Angeles, Her is still an astoundingly emotional and deeply human evocation of our strange species at both its nadir and its zenith.
As much as we try to reach out, expand, and connect—personally or virtually—Spike Jonze’s powerful film suggests that we will, ultimately, remain strangers to ourselves and to each other.
If that sounds overly gloomy, cliché, or navel gaze-y, fear not! The film’s take on the human condition is impactful, wry, and nuanced. Her is also slyly funny, spectacular to look at, and impeccably cast.
Her is set in the very near future, and the familiar-yet-distant world conjured up—cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema, art direction by Austin Gorg, and set decoration by Gene Serdena—is beautiful and visually unprecedented. This world is full of pastel colors, innovative future tech, sleek modernism, and inspired sartorial choices (be sure to watch for the pants!).
Joaquin Phoenix is a marvel as mustachioed protagonist Theodore Twombly, a mope extraordinaire and star letter-writer at a company (yes, actually) called BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com. At work, Twombly manufactures happiness and love for others like a postmodern Cyrano de Bergerac. He’s damn good at it, too.
In his private life, however, Twombly is shaken by his failed marriage with Catherine (Rooney Mara), profoundly unhappy, and stubbornly refuses to sign his divorce papers. After a hilarious and horrifying stab at futuristic phone sex (with a woman voiced by Kristen Wiig), Twombly turns to something a bit more sophisticated—OS1, “the first artificially intelligent operating system.”
As it turns out, OS1 is named Samantha and voiced (brilliantly) by the incomparable Scarlett Johansson. What follows is a rather unorthodox and, yet, incredibly captivating love story between a man and his operating system.
Her will—unquestionably—stir up feelings for the viewer. Lots and lots of feelings. As they fall in and out of love, Phoenix, Johansson, Mara, and Amy Adams (as Twombly’s kind-hearted best friend) embrace lovingly and land emotional gut punches with equal ferocity.
In some large or small way, the relationships of Her are our own relationships. We share in Phoenix’s heartaches as well as his maddening conversational blunders. Johansson’s admirable but reckless yearning to grow and improve is incredibly human, even if her character isn’t. We soar on the film’s upward swoops and bursts of joy before we crash during its manifold fights and crises.
Her is soulful, gorgeous, and (try as this reviewer might) completely ineffable. You should go see it. (126 min.)
—Rhys Heyden; Staff Writer