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Movie Review – ‘Her’ breaking down love in unexpected places



Superficial Intelligence – In this world consumed by technology, rarely do we stop and appreciate what we are able to do. I mean, it was just 19 years ago that the internet truly became commercialized for computer users like you and me to log in to check e-mail or go on the web. Now, nearly 40 percent of the world uses the internet daily, according to a survey done by the International Telecommunications Union. That’s a staggering statistic and one that helps feed the underlying philosophical message in Spike Jonze’s new film “Her,” which explorers love using an intelligent handheld operating device.

Joaquin Phoenix in "Her."
Warner Bros. Pictures

What’s it about? The story here mostly follows the trials and tribulations of one Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) and his relentless pursuit of happiness; this all after a painful split from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) who he had yet to sign the divorce papers for. So, when Theodore happened to run across a new OS device on the market that adapted to humans, he signed up. Anything to take his mind off his real issues was a good thing. The name of his OS was Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) and for all intent purposes, seemed just like an ordinary female on the other end of a phone. Only she wasn’t, as the bond they start to form was both unexpected and real, leading Theodore to finally start facing his true feelings. And shortly thereafter, he set up a lunch with Catherine to sign the divorce papers and officially put that chapter behind him, but when Theodore starts talking about Samantha and the fact she is in OS, the lunch turns south sending Theodore into a dark place. One that he really was never able to get out, until he sees his college friend Amy (Amy Adams) move on after ending her marriage proving to him that friendship, no matter in what form, can be some of the best medicine.

Who was in it? I’ll be honest; I might not have seen this film had Joaquin Phoenix not been involved. And that’s coming from someone who loves films like this which are completely ‘off the wall.’ So, trusting Phoenix in his craft was big, but as I watched this film, it became clear this was more about the story than the stars in it. Of course, without the tremendous performance turned in by Phoenix, I doubt I would have enjoyed it as much as I did. Because without someone to sort of walk you through this script, you would have no clue what writer/director Spike Jonze was trying to do. That’s no slight on the talented director, just a fact after watching everything play out. And while Phoenix clearly led this film in whatever direction it warranted, he had some help from supporters like Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt and Olivia Wilde. With that said, this story would not have gone as far as it did without Scarlett Johansson’s voice being projected out of the handheld OS. Her inflection and ease at which she spoke allowed you to feel as if she was right there in the same room with Joaquin Phoenix. Granted, it helped that it was a recognizable voice, as we all can picture her face as we listen to her, but it still was a nice casting for this intriguing role.

Jonze-ing for more – For a majority of anyone reading this, Spike Jonze is just another name and one you may think you know, but won’t know from where. And that’s probably OK with him, considering this is just his fourth film as director since 1999. Yup, you can count on one hand the number of films he has been behind the camera for, starting with “Being John Malkovich,” "Adaptation,” “Where the Wild Things Are” and ending with “Her.” But, that’s not for a lack of trying, as directing films aren’t what Jonze is really known for. He actually made a name for himself in the music industry, where he has directed over 50 music videos since the early 90’s. So, for those like me that enjoy music and movies, you can appreciate how Jonze’s directorial style for his films mirror what you may see from any of the videos he has directed over the years. And here, several times, I felt as if I was watching one of his music videos, which believe it or not was a nice change from what most directors would do with a story such as this. Sure, some might wonder what this is really about given all the underlying science-fiction which does make you think a bit; at its core, it’s just a drama about love and relationships.

Bottom Line – “Her” might not look like much, but the longer you watch, you start to appreciate what Spike Jonze is trying to convey. To be able to create this kind of pseudo sci-fi/love story and display it on the screen in the manner that he did deserves praise.


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