Director: Spike Jonze
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson (voice), Amy Adams
After the recent announcement of the main nominees for the 86th Academy Awards, I made it my goal to get up to date with as many of the films nominated for the leading categories as possible before the ceremony on March 2nd. This has admittedly gotten off to a relatively slow start due to my newly-acquired busy schedule, but this weekend I did manage to see two of the Best Picture nominated movies, beginning with Her, the fourth feature-length picture from acclaimed director Spike Jonze. Nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay (although not Best Director), Her is a movie I knew very little about before viewing other than the general premise (and critical recognition).
Some time in the not-too-distant future, Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) is employed as a writer of (mostly love) letters for people unable to express themselves emotionally. Theodore, having recently broken up with his wife (Rooney Mara), leads an ironically miserable life alone until he installs an artificially-intelligent operating system onto his technological devices (which were already omnipresent in his life). Samantha, as she soon names herself (Johansson (voice)), is smart and funny, although initially very naïve. The two soon become fast friends, and after Theodore returns from a blind date gone bad, shortly enter into a romantic relationship. This is not without its difficulties. Despite the support of old friend Amy (Adams), Theodore and Samantha struggle against obstacles like the lack of physicality. But as Samantha grows it’s only a matter of time until Theodore is outgrown along with the rest of the human race; Theodore is not alone in his circumstances, but he is nevertheless once again alone.
Her is a very strange film; although marketed as a comedy-drama, what humour there is is very dark. From a futuristic take on “phone sex” right at the beginning of the movie it’s clear that Jonze isn’t going to hold back in making this film into exactly what he wants, and this is refreshing. This also helped me connect with the characters, as the candidness of the perspective made them seem more real and relatable despite the surrealism. This was true to the extent I actually felt invested in the relationship between Theodore and Samantha to a greater extent than I do with many “real” on-screen couples; when Samantha is suddenly and unexpectedly unreachable I truly empathised with Theodore’s panic. The casting is excellent and Phoenix is very believable as a lonely guy a little on the odd side (I’m very surprised at his lack of an Oscar nomination for the part). There is however an odd feeling that there’s something missing that keeps the film as a niche drama and holds it back from blockbuster status; I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it might be linked to the general unease I felt from the story (this seems to be a strong theme in Jonze’s work). Perhaps it’s because it’s a little too believable as the possible future of technology. Nevertheless, I definitely enjoyed Her, and I would undoubtedly recommend it for a watch.
My Rating: 8/10