In the somewhat distant future, a recently-divorced and lonely writer named Theodore forms a relationship with his beautifully-voiced and exceptionally savvy operating system. As their bond strengthens, and Theodore sees those around him crumble, he starts to wonder what it means to love someone and share a life together.
Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely mesmerizing as the sympathetic Theodore. Scarlett Johansson is perfect to voice the OS Samantha, while Amy Adams and Rooney Mara, as his friend and ex-wife respectively, are wonderful screen presences. Chris Pratt and Olivia Wilde also make some comedic appearances.
Immediately beautiful and perfectly-paced throughout, sooner or later Her will leave you spellbound. It’s a combination of things that causes this suspension in wonder, not the least of which includes the fact that you are so in the corner of hopeful romantic Theodore, all bushy-haired, mustachioed, and bespectacled.
In this hazy, sun-soaked futuristic Los Angeles, where computer sentience has taken some major steps, the recently-divorced Theodore works at a colourful office crafting love letters for those too busy to do it themselves.
He is dedicated, humble, a bit corny, and completely endearing. His commute to his panoramic high rise has a majestic quality too, as he ambles through pedestrian highways alongside gardens and trees that hide between soaring skyscrapers.
It’s on a trip home that he opts to buy a brand new operating system for his computer, and upon booting it up, after going for the voice of a female of course, he begins chatting with it. Or rather, her. She has taken the name Samantha (the voice of Scarlett Johansson), because, well, she wanted a name. Quickly learning about Theodore (as a computer is wont to do), the two start to converse on end, and Theodore begins to fill the hole in his life where a partner once was, finding someone with whom to share thoughts and stories and ideas.
It seldom seems that people even converse in the future, as everyone walks with their respective heads down looking at their electronic devices (that’s not just the future). While disengaged crowds abound, Theodore’s one attempt at a date turns into a drunken, unnerving, gross mess.
Throughout, director Spike Jonze stays focused and true to a love story that unravels as an awkward, honest, sometimes uncomfortable, and always enchanting allegory. It’s not about technology, and despite later developments, it’s not about artificial intelligence. Instead, it’s simply and beautifully a tale about a man finding a companion at this phase in his life, and how, like anyone else would, he grapples with his feelings for her, her feelings for him, and both the excitement that comes with a new relationship and the fear of losing it altogether (it reminds at times of last year’s fabulous Ruby Sparks).
The arc of the romance is punctuated early and often by some outrageously hysterical, and maybe slightly detracting, offbeat gags, from a wayward sexual encounter by phone to an annoyingly-dressed neighbor to a precocious foul-mouthed video game character.
These moments of levity balance with some heartbreaking lyrical reflections, as Theodore recalls his time with his wife (Rooney Mara) in their happiness and joy, all of which is now gone. That is the past, while the listless marriage of his friend and neighbor Amy (Amy Adams) is the equally uninspiring present.
The casual way in which Theodore embraces his relationship and talks about it to others is initially staggering, and may distract some more unwilling viewers, but his plight isn’t really that much different than love in the past or present. People fall in love in the virtual world, they seek comfort and companionship, and that can sprout from any situation or environment.
Indeed, Jonze and Phoenix, who gives a remarkable performance as you follow him through every scene, tell a story that is affecting and convincing. Full of authenticity and dedication, Her is a near-perfectly crafted, conceived, and executed dream of a film.
Should You See It?
Absolutely, but keep in mind, this isn’t quite the comedy that some (the Globes) might have you believe, and it’s definitely very adult.