Spike Jonze’s beautifully crafted romance is set in the notso- far future where technology and human emotion unusually collide. “Her” is the next indie cult classic to hit the box office, just like Jonze’s previously profound films, such as “Where The Wild Things Are” and “Being John Malkovich.” The film tells a story of Theodore Twombly (played by Joaquin Phoenix), a disheartened, socially inept ghostwriter going through a divorce and heartbreak of his own. Theodore struggles to find himself in his daily life, between the divorce of his past love, Catherine (played by Rooney Mara), and his work, where he empathically writes personal letters for other people through a website company. Theodore finally finds what he lacks in himself when he falls in love with Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).
However this strong female character is not a person but a highly complex and intelligent operating system. And through the days they share together, a relationship begins to form in the strangest of scenarios. Theodore takes Samantha everywhere with him, and they experience the world together through Theodore’s eyes. But it is only with Samantha’s optimistic insight on life that they both develop an appreciation for raw emotion and belonging.
“Her” is largely dialogue, switching between first and third person; however, it never fails to seamlessly place the viewer directly into the scene with great natural ability. Spike Jonze not only directed the film but also wrote the script as well. Jonze’s dialogue is profound and beautifully carried out by the actors with such elegance and fluidity that its quirky tendencies feel very customary. Jonze builds scenes for romantic drama in odd but real-life settings that give us the perfect metaphor for the love we see in our own lives. Although Spike Jonze’s writing ability is filled with unique and thoughtful epiphanies and realities, the real masterpiece is the acting done by Joaquin Phoenix.
For the large majority of the film, Phoenix runs a one-man show. He speaks into thin air to Samantha, who is essentially an artificial voice in his head. However he does this with just the right amount of intention, voice and facial expression. But it is these subtle details that make this unusual romance feel so authentic. Phoenix is brilliant, and Jonze’s casting is essential to what makes “Her” such an outstanding film. To give “Her” its futuristic look, cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema plays around with lens flares, warm lighting and a hazy sunniness that sets the viewer in a dreamy trance. The film’s trendy look is largely thanks to its production designer K.K. Barrett for the its minimalistic sets and costumes filled with mute primary colors and simple patterns. My personal favorite part of the film is its music score, which was predominantly composed by Canadian indie band Arcade Fire, with additions from Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Each piece plunges you into the lives of the characters where its floating melodies and romantic songs are just the perfect fit.
All in all, “Her” is essentially the tale of an unlikely, but plausible love story between a human and a very compelling piece of technology. Strange? Yes. Far-fetched? Hardly. Bottom line is “Her” is no doubt one of the most notable movies of the year and definitely worth a watch. Spike Jonze’s satirical romance makes fun of how dangerously close we are to falling in love with our technological devices. It takes won the social issues that are prevalent in today’s day and age, but sets them on a scale that is just out of our reach, allowing us to look at these issues with a third unbiased eye. It isn’t until after the movie is over that we realize, even though the concept is strange and a tad awkward, it is a real reflection of the human longing to love and be loved.