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Her – Movie Review

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Her – Movie Review

Rating: A- (Great)

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When depicting the future, we are usually treated to dystopian cities, post-nuclear wastelands or very high-tech concepts that realistically won’t actually happen in the time frame predicted. As expected from the unique imagination of Spike Jonze, the future in Her looks realistic enough to conceivably happen in a short number of years and with this growing age of people paying more attention to screens, even its absurd storyline seems believable. By following the conventions of romantic comedies, the relationship between its two leads, who meet-cute in the most unusual way, actually becomes one worth caring about. It is Jonze’s ability as a filmmaker that allows this premise to be interpreted in a sweet way.

Like any romantic relationship worth rooting for, the main character has to have some degree of likeability and Theodore has a certain sincerity that makes the situation work. Joaquin Phoenix actually goes outside of his comfort zone a bit by playing somebody nervously going through life, but who has a good heart. Any past relationship depicted in Her does not fall apart through any malice on his part, but rather due to Theodore being somewhat detached and confused about the female mind. However, there is thankfully not a distance between him and the audience. There’s a careful line that needs to be drawn for the main concept of a human falling in love with his computer not to become too off-putting or strange. Under another director, the idea would probably be rather creepy and too absurd. However, Spike Jonze is a director who succeeds in the ridiculous becoming believable. When Theodore first plugs in Samantha, a connection is instantly felt and the screenplay develops that exceptionally well through the course of the film. Her uses the format and conventions of romantic comedies to its advantage to create a very endearing couple.

Another large reason for that is Scarlett Johansson’s vocal performance as Samantha, who while never having a face and expressions, has a lot of character and likeability to her. This makes the connection that Theodore feels towards her understandable and because of the depiction of this future, the fact that other characters don’t find this romance to be strange somehow works. The chemistry between them is very strong, made even more impressive since Samantha Morton was the original voice and the actress Phoenix was communicating with. This relationship becomes so engaging and touching that when the inevitable brief break-up happens, it actually feels sad when the two of them are quarrelling.

When Samantha becomes slightly jealous over the neighbour (played delightfully by Amy Adams), it is certainly felt, thus showcasing the sentient emotions she is gaining. Spike Jonze succeeds in the impressive task of making us care that a human being and an electronic tablet have gotten together. The one element that doesn’t entirely work is when Jonze explores the idea of sexual interaction. Her usually portrays the Samantha-Theodore relationship in an innocent, cute kind of way and the rest of the film shares their sense of wonder usually found in the beginning of romances. When characters start having orgasms, including the computer, it doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of the piece and becomes distracting.

Her also has a lot to say about our growing reliance on technology, but with the subtle magic Jonze is known for. There is rarely a scene where characters are not looking at or interacting with a screen, enough that when Theodore visits a cabin, it provides a certain bit of nostalgia for the “olden days.” One recurring joke throughout the film is Theodore playing a video game that engulfs the entire room, taking the motion-control of Nintendo Wii to another level. It all ties into the theme of how immersed we are with our shiny, electronic instruments, so it does not defy logic that he would fall in love with a computer. In this near-future, it almost seems like everybody is going through the regular motions of love and work and traveling. Even architecture has taken on a shiny, similar look for every building and IKEA seems to have gained a monopoly on the furniture industry (one wonders whether their meatballs and halibut have become the signature dish at every restaurant). Ironically, it takes an electronic device to take Theodore out of his mundane routine.

Her has a premise that could have easily come off as creepy with a character that we’re more repulsed by than actually sympathetic towards. It’s a credit to Spike Jonze’s talents that he makes a touching romantic comedy with a relationship that actually manages to be swooning and sweet. I bought that Theodore and Samantha were romantically involved and right for each other, despite Amy Adams living down the hallway. This film is pure science-fiction, but in an age where people fall in love with those online who they’ve merely seen and heard in video chats, it is not too outlandish of a story. Jonze is one of the most creative and imaginative directors of the current age and while he rarely releases a new movie, when he does, he brings something unique and special to the screen.

Review By: Stefan Ellison


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