Spike Jonze is one of those directors that have an interesting career in both in front of and behind the camera. His latest film Her has been getting a lot of buzz for the performances of both Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson who appears in voice alone. Could this strange film be as good as the buzz surrounding it or does it shift too far on the artsy direction to work?
Her follows a lonely man in the final stages of a divorce who spends most of his time playing video games and hanging out with friends from time to time when not working. When he decides to purchase the new OS1 intelligent operating system he quickly find himself drawn in closer than he could have ever imagined. This is one of those films that is really so strange it works brilliantly. While it never really says it, this film takes place in a sort of future time which helps to make the idea of this intelligent system work. The relationship between computer and human here is easily the most bizarre and original love story since 2002s Secretary. Once again Phoenix delivers a brilliant performance bringing all the emotional issues and simple nature to this character. He plays it as the everyman, while still being a bit of an outcast with minimal social skills due to his personal loss. The supporting cast including Christ Pratt and Amy Adams all do a great job to help bring the rest of the film together, but it’s his real co-star Scarlett Johansson that really makes this film work. It is amazing to watch this film and see the chemistry Phoenix and Johansson have together without here ever being on screen. She brings so much to this voice over performance that it elevates Phoenix’s performance along with it. It’s strange to say, but she gives easily one of if not her best performance here bringing a wide range of emotion and life to a character that was looking for just that. The visuals to the film are often strange, but always beautiful making it never to futuristic, but always more than reality.
The story to this film is pretty far out there, but thanks to some brilliant filmmaking and performances it makes for easily one of the most original and best films out there. There is no doubt that all the buzz and award recognition this film is receiving is well deserved, but it is just sad that Johansson is not being recognized as without her performance this film could have fallen flat despite Phoenix’s greatness. If you are looking for a film that is beautiful, intelligent, unique and just all around great then you need to check out Her.