The movie itself is unique, if only because it is a movie not based on something else. Her is Spike Jonze’s latest movie, and the premise is intriguing.
Set in Los Angeles in the near distant future, writer Theodore Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix) is a sad guy with minimal friends and a dull job “writing” handwritten letters for other people by speaking into his computer in his cubicle farm of an office. He leaves work, makes small talk with neighbors Amy (Amy Adams) and Charles (Matt Letscher) while on the elevator, and returns to his apartment to play video games and look for sexy singles in his area while he is trying to sleep…typical “loser” behavior even in this day and age.
Things change the next morning after hearing about a new operating system (Operating System 1), the world’s first artificially intelligent OS. Supposedly it learns, adapts, and grows, and in the movie, Theodore’s OS, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), appears to do just this. At first, she helps Theodore clean up his email and his life, and learns about “being human” by interacting with his virtual life and other operating systems in the world. Eventually, as shown in the trailer above, Samantha becomes a bit more than Theodore’s virtual assistant, and the end result is something that is a little unexpected.
It’s an interesting movie, if only because it can be viewed as a commentary on how much people are involved in their digital lives. It’s bad enough that people in the present day walk down the street with their eyes glued to their phones, completely shutting out the outside world. This movie is no different, and there is one scene in particular where Theodore has little care for his surroundings as he allows Samantha to lead him around a crowded shopping center. The calming voice of Samantha becomes an escape from the pressures of the real world, which ultimately help Theodore and Samantha find “love.”
The performances in the movie are outstanding for the most part. Scarlett Johansson never appears in the movie, but her voice emotes plenty enough so that we never need to see her. Amy Adams is good in a smaller role, though she could have had her character fleshed out a little more earlier in the film. Rooney Mara is also wasted for much of the movie, only seen in soundless flashbacks as Theodore reflects on his failed relationship with her, but truly shines when she shows up to meet Theodore to sign divorce papers. Olivia Wilde shows up as a Theodore’s blind date, and Chris Pratt is another of Theodore’s minimal stable of friends, and they both perform well in the bit pieces in which they are involved.
But the true star, obviously, is Joaquin Phoenix. He spends most of the movie seemingly talking to himself while interacting with Samantha through an earpiece. The way that he walks and holds his body help indicate that he is truly a sad person that is upset with the way that his life has ended up. Then, as his life seems to get better due to his relationship with Samantha, the posture changes and he is full of life again, only to end up back in that stage at various parts of a tumultuous relationship. It is a masterclass in acting, and I would imagine that he will garner another Oscar nomination.
Spike Jonze already won a Golden Globe for the screenplay for the movie, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Oscar nomination for him as well. It is strange in this day of remakes, sequels, adaptations, and reboots to find something original, and Her manages to stand out from many of the other movies that have been released recently. It should be seen before many others out right now, especially in this slow time of year at the movies.
Until next time…