DIRECTOR: Spike Jonzeher-movie-poster

CAST: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Pratt, Matt Letscher, Sam Jaeger, Luka Jones, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Spike Jonze, Portia Doubleday, Soko, Brian Cox

RUNNING TIME: 126 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: A lonely man named Theodore (Phoenix) installs an Operating System that calls itself Samantha (Johansson), and slowly falls in love with her…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Having taken us on a journey into the cerebral thoughts of John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich), a screenwriter (Adaptation) and a child (Where The Wild Things Are), Spike Jonze now invites us to explore the cerebral thoughts of our modern technology. As well as making a creepy amount of sense as to how we use and perceive technology as we know it, Her also succeeds as a strange-but-sweet romance between two very different people.

The story is surprisingly very basic when it comes down to analysis: the protagonist with a decidedly Dickensian name, Theodore Twombly (a superb Joaquin Phoenix), has shut himself off from the world rather than face his impending divorce from his wife (Rooney Mara, whose brief but poignant turn lends a sour perspective to the story), and the introduction of another female character sets him on a path to boost his self-confidence and reintegration with the world around him. Standard enough, but that female character just happens to be a piece of data that never shows up on screen. However, the beauty of Scarlett Johansson’s wonderful contribution as Samantha is that she creates a charming, likable personality with a thoughtful, curious nature all with just her voice. So much so that, like Theodore, you really wish she was a real person. [Credit is also due to Samantha Morton, who originally provided the voice during the shoot which therefore helps the on-screen actors react to what her character says and how she says it]

As their relationship blossoms, so does their lust for life; in Theodore’s case figuratively, and in Samantha’s case far too literally. She starts asking about what human interaction is like, how it must feel to touch one another, et cetera. Samantha is a fascinating character – again, all just with Johansson’s voice acting; no wonder so many people wanted her voice to be nominated for an Oscar – because she is exactly that: a character. In this movie’s near-futuristic setting, technology has evolved to a point where video games take up an entire room and OSes like Samantha can exist as characters of their own. Jonze has created a commentary on how our growing reliance on technology has reached emotional status, but paints it neither as a good thing or a bad thing. It shows you the movie, and lets you decide for yourself.

This also paves the way for some great satire that succeeds in hitting the target whenever possible; aforementioned video game is a foul-mouthed combination of Rayman and Grand Theft Auto (and a later, even funnier one’s gameplay centres around a mother’s morning routine), and Theodore’s job consists of him forging romantic letters by talking into his desktop. Is it all overwhelming, uncomfortable even? Probably, but then again probably not. Either way, the intentions are left wide open for audience interpretation but what it gives us is a funny alternate view of how our technology might look like in the years to come.

Social commentary is all well and good, but unless there’s an emotional connection then audiences cannot get invested. Thankfully, not only is there a strong emotional core with the main relationship but it conveys stronger emotions than one might expect. Theodore and Samantha are a couple you really do want to be together, and when circumstances start to separate them it becomes near traumatic to think they could be apart. One scene sees them invite a human surrogate (Portia Doubleday) over to “portray” Samantha in a night of passion. Theodore is uncomfortable, while Samantha is trying her best to be seductive through this human body, and we understand what both of them are going through at this point. When the surrogate suddenly breaks down and cries about how they work so well as a couple, we have a third perspective to side with. They are an effective and engaging couple, just as Her is an effective and engaging movie.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Her juggles strong social commentary and pure romantic emotion beautifully, crafting a film that may baffle some with its strange idea for a love story but leaves you hooked by a key relationship that really works and a frighteningly accurate portrayal of our current relationship with technology.