Okay, okay. So it’s been a while since our last post. When we started this blog, we planned to publish a new post every week or so (since that’s the maximum amount of time I can last before going into full movie withdrawal). Life and
other nuisances have interjected and threw off this bold plan. I’ve managed to maintain my almost-weekly movie nights but the reviews have gotten backlogged. I’ll try to remedy this by writing a short, not-so-thorough of Spike Jonze’s Her or as my friends like to call it “that movie where Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his phone.” I know what you’re saying. Flashback/Backslide we’ve missed you, won’t you write more?” Well….maybe you’re not saying that. Okay, no one is saying that. But I’ll try to crank my writing speed up to one post every week or two.
Her caught me off guard. I added it to my list of January’s most anticipated movies, thinking it would bolster a pretty sorry list, but after seeing it I’d just as soon add it to my list of best movies of the year. I was worried that the movie would come across as tone-deaf and push a narrative about our collective love of technology. Instead, Jonze and Phoenix craft a very sincere film about Phoenix’s struggle with love and relationships. When we meet our main character, Theodore (Phoenix) is struggling with the failure of his marriage with Catherine (Rooney Mara). The couple separated a year ago but have Theodore has been dragging his feet and has refused to sign the divorce papers (a plot we are not unfamiliar with). Theodore and Catherine grew up together and eventually grow apart. Their story is likely familiar to many young adults (or real grown-ups); a couple in a loving relationship which wears down over years of mutual, tandem growth. Theodore transitions roughly after the separation and withdraws from his friends. His work highlights his emotional isolation as he writes intimate letters on behalf of others. His working hours are filled writing love letters between couples and notes to grandmothers he has never met and his nights are spent retreating into video games. After an incredibly awkward date with Olivia Wilde, Theodore invests in an operating system equipped with artificial intelligence, not satisfied with the standard Google Glass-esque earpiece everyone in the film wears, allowing the wearer to sift through emails, arrange meetings and hear the news at all times. The OS boots up and we meet Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) and the two develop a close, eventually romantic connection. Samantha and Theodore form a relationship akin to a long distance relationship with no prospect of physically meeting. The fact that she is a computer posits the relationship as unattainable and forever impossible.
For me, this movie details the life of Theodore who transitions from one loving and happy relationship that outgrows itself, directly into a second relationship which is altogether impossible and doomed to fail. There are plenty of plot holes and awkward moments but they are largely forgivable as the plot was not altogether complicated and didn’t stumble to the point of falling on it’s face. Phoenix finds a great tone for Theodore as the awkward recluse who allows himself to fall for Samantha. This is probably his second best performance after The Master, although I have a soft spot for Gladiator and Signs. (Yeah I said it. I liked Signs.) Even though we never see Johansson’s face, she is ironically more relatable and emotionally connecting than in many of her movies. Amy Adams isn’t featured heavily but she is one of the top actresses working right now in terms of both ability and versatility (she’s my personal favorite). Her work in American Hustle is superior but mostly because her character is more central there. Jonze creates an engaging atmosphere with beautiful imagery filled with several futuristic technologies, while not pushing the film into pure science fiction. Sure, a man falls in love with a piece of technology, but it’s not A.I. Artificial Intelligence or Simone. Several clever technologies are peppered in and all work to develop the idea that people are overall incapable of developing personal connections. They’d rather pay someone to write a letter for them and listen to the news in their ear than talk to each other.
There seems to be a bit of vitriol towards this movie and an idea in some reviews that the film sells us false sincerity. But overall the movie, its characters and plot, worked for me personally. This is Jonze’s first attempt at screenwriting a feature film and I look forward to seeing him develop as a writer and make more feature length films.
Where to see it: You could probably wait on this one. The theater doesn’t really give you any added bonus and watching it at home would be fine. But if you love any of the people involved you might swing for a ticket.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. We’ve decided to drop the whole 10 point rating system. It seemed forced and unnecessary to add a number after a whole review so we cut it out. We added back the ratings after this one-time dropping.