Her movie review

HER

The song “Diamonds are Forever” explored the value of inanimate objects such as diamonds and how they can be so pleasing, while never failing or upsetting you. “They won’t leave in the night, I’ve no fear that they might desert me,” sings Shirley Bassey. Her takes this theme to a new level in a science-fiction story concerned more about the social consequences of technology rather than the technology itself. The film has much to do with loneliness and the pain of human interaction, but, although it has the potential to be a depressing meditation on the subject, it’s much too charming and full of life to fall into that territory. Her is an ingenious, unique take on a tired genre and possibly the best film of 2013.

After watching Her, my friend couldn’t help but notice people immediately reaching for their phones to check e-mail, answer texts, and so forth. We’re a society that’s constantly connected to some sort of device. The film never mentions how far in the future it is, but I’d imagine it’s 20 years at the most because it seems like such an accurate depiction of where we’ll be in a short amount of time, complete with ubiquitous ear pieces allowing the characters to stay connected with their documents and messages, highly advanced interactive games that fill living rooms and astonishing human-like operating systems. We already have Siri; it’s only a matter of time before we get a Samantha, the main OS in the film that’s almost indistinguishable from a human being, save for the lack of any physical form.

HER

To some, the idea of a man falling in love with his OS sounds way too ludicrous for a feature film. But is it? Imagine a man like Theodore Twombly (a brilliant Joaquin Phoenix), a gentle, kind-hearted but lonely man whose very name invokes an unthreatening quality, and who’s depressed about an upcoming divorce to his wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara). Now, imagine this man purchased an OS with a female voice who provides comfort, support, humour and unwavering dedication devoid of the many problems that come with human relationships. Samantha is kind of like a really sexy pet. And is she ever sexy! Scarlett Johansson provides the voice of Samantha in what is, ironically, one of the best performances of her career. The film proves it’s not just Johansson’s looks that get her through a film; you don’t even see her on screen! With her deliciously raspy voice, bubbly personality, and nurturing demeanor, it’s almost impossible not to fall in love with Samantha.

The same can be said for this movie. Director Spike Jones, a proven visionary, writes and directs this near-masterpiece. It has the potential to be a good, biting satire, but that might be too easy for Jones. Instead, he’s created a thing of beauty, hope, love and sometimes sadness. There’s little cynicism here. Instead of berating mankind for embracing technology so readily, he embraces it himself and uses it to tell a modern story with futuristic ideas. The way in which the story unravels and all the obstacles that come between Theodore and his happiness is completely realistic and eye-opening.

There are some scenes that, in many other hands, could’ve been disastrous. At one point, Theodore admits to Amy (Amy Adams), a good friend and someone who’s also going through a divorce, that he’s been dating his OS. It’s such a bizarre situation, yet Jones and the actors provide credibility to this material, making you believe that it’s a conversation that could actually occur in real life, albeit a few years from now. There’s also a risky scene that’s one of the most powerful, bold, and unique scenes in recent memory. It’s a real “wow” moment that’ll leave you speechless. Just see the film. I’ll say no more. Another sequence involving a surrogate physical body for Samantha, played by Portia Doubleday, verges on excess, but Jones pulls back quickly enough before it gets out of hand.

Unlike other movies of its kind, this isn’t some sort of dystopian society. On the contrary, Jones creates a clean, sleek world right down to the machines used in Theodor’s office where he writes letters for those who can’t express their feelings. The film takes place in a classier, tidier Los Angeles and there’s a feeling of serenity in the air. It brings to mind Lost in Translation, another Scarlett Johansson movie about disorganized feelings in a hyper-organized world.

These are qualities that support the script and enhance the film, but it doesn’t work at all if the chemistry between Phoenix and Johansson is lacking. This isn’t the case at all. Their playful banter as well as deep heart-to-hearts are intoxicating. It’s as joyous as watching two young human adults fall in love. Nothing is contrived and everything feels authentic.

And who said Joaquin Phoenix was done acting? It’s a good thing that was all a hoax because since that whole degenerate rapper debacle he’s given some of his best performances of his career, first with his powerhouse performance as Freddie Quell in The Master that earned him an Oscar nomination, and now with this one, which is a completely different role, yet just as Oscar worthy.

her 3

Her is a movie about the difficulties of human interactions, but also the loneliness we feel when these interactions deteriorate. Because of these topics, the film is often sad and even heartbreaking in certain parts, but there’s always a sense of hope and happiness that lingers in the periphery creating an oddly pleasant, bittersweet feeling. The fantastic score to which Arcade Fire and Karen O contribute adds to this feeling. But I’m inclined to believe that, out of this sadness comes hope for a better, healthy future for the characters as well as the world in which they inhabit. This film is a true work of art and it’ll stay with you like a best friend who’s moved to a different city. It’s gone, but never forgotten.

Grade: A+

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Glen Ilnicki
Glen Ilnicki 271 posts

Glen has been reading comic books and playing video games his whole life. His unhealthy passion, however, is for film. He currently resides in Ottawa, Canada.