Spoiler Alert: May contain spoilers. (Or not. Let’s find out together.)
The movie stars Joaquin Phoenix (in a role that left me questioning whether that was actually Joaquin Phoenix) as Theodore Twombly - a lonely introvert who writes personal love letters for people with difficulties expressing their feelings. (Yes, it’s that kind of movie.)
Theodore is staring down the barrel of a divorce to his high-school sweetheart Catherine played by Rooney Mara (so much win), and decides to find comfort in a decidedly-female Artificial Intelligence Operating System named “Samantha,” voiced by Scarlett Johansson.
We’ll also mention that Amy Adams plays, get this, Amy, a long-time friend and ex-sort-of-but-not-really-girlfriend of Theodore. Olivia Wilde also makes a brief appearance.
(We only mention that for the sake of letting you know that Olivia Wilde is in the film. If that sappiness doesn’t do it for you, perhaps this will.)
Let’s walk back from telling the story now that you have some idea what was happening as you sat there entranced by the epic beauty of Spike Jonze’s masterpiece, acclaimed the best film of 2013 at the National Board of Review Awards, and sharing 1st place with Gravity (oh God, don’t get me started on how nearly-perfect that was), in the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards.
What sets Her apart from other romantic “dramedies” (my new favorite word), is the way that the story is told, being both relatable and down-to-Earth, but at the same time remarkable, and interesting.
The disconnection of physical intimacy coupled with uncertainty and vulnerability makes Her a prize by itself. Scarlett Johansson for the first time doesn’t need to fall back on her looks, or too much cleave to wow audiences, and stuns with a vocal performance that’s both incredibly passionate and beautifully disheartening, proving that the actor is not just in the business of being a pretty face, and can deliver on great expectations in a smart, mature film for adults. (Who knew!)
Her heralds the start of what will likely be a trend in the coming years as far as filming goes. (One can only hope.) Movies like Silver Linings Playbook certainly proved that slapstick comedy, cheap jokes and sex are not solely the ingredients to a successful film, and that “grown-up” stories don’t always have to be droll, poorly paced, and all-around terrible. (see; The English Patient. Or don’t rather. Please don’t put yourself through that. Somebody loves you.) But with this gracefully executed piece of art, we can gain hope that more intelligent films featuring smart, but not pretentiously smart, comedy, mixed with real-life drama, and just a hint of artistic vision will come about to satisfy the pallet of grad student-to-adult demographics.
Needless to say, my heart sank. I laughed, I cried, I walked away satisfied. And while the ending did bring about some painful memories of my, and I’m sure many in the audiences, past relationships, I have to say, while it was in no way a perfect way to conclude the story, it was the appropriate one.
A big round of applause to Spike Jonze for going there. The commentary on dependence to technology, to the daunting idea that this could one day portray real-life events given our increasing attachment, to the fact that down to its bare-bones, Her is still not your typical love story, and manages to stand out brilliantly, makes this a must-see in 2014.
Here’s to the Golden Globe nominations holding up at the awards ceremony. If you haven’t seen this wonderful piece, now’s the time. Her will playing at the AMC in Clifton tonight at 7:45 and 9:05, as well as earlier showings, but it’s Friday, so grab yourself someone you love (or at least platonically care about), and check it out together.