Her is a film written and directed by Spike Jonze. This film, set in the not-so-distant future, tells the story of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a soon-to-be-divorced writer, and the relationship he develops with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), the voice of his artificially intelligent operating system.
Her is by far one of the oddest concepts in any film I have ever seen, but in only a way Spike Jonze can, he makes it work in such an incredibly beautiful manner. I wrote about Her a few months ago in my fall preview, and I was very much looking forward to seeing this because I wanted Jonze to get back to making movies that I enjoy. In my opinion, Where the Wild Things Are (2009) was a boring movie, no matter how cool it looked on screen, and I was hoping Her would put Jonze back on my cinematic map. And indeed, he has. The script, Jonze’s first solo effort, was far more hilarious than I was expecting, and he made it come together on the screen through stunning colors and intricate detail. Even though a couple of scenes drag at times, Spike Jonze has created a film that is all the while memorable, refreshingly funny, and bitterly sad, and it will be exciting to see what he has in store next.
The film succeeds because of Jonze’s fantastic script and striking set decoration, but thanks to two amazing acting performances, it is one of the better movies from 2013. I have always been a fan of Joaquin Phoenix’s work, no matter how much of a peculiarity he is as a human being, and in his role as Theodore Twombly, he has created one of the best performances of his career, and by far one of my favorites. His character is quiet and introverted, but it was invigorating to see his transformation as a person after falling in love with Samantha; Phoenix’s innate ability as a performer makes this character thrive in every scene. It was also entertaining to see Joaquin Phoenix in a role that mixes equal parts of drama and comedy—I never would have thought of him as a “funny” guy, but in this film, he makes it work, and he makes it work well.
Another fantastic performance was given by Scarlett Johansson as Samantha. And before any of you that have not yet seen the film ask, yes, Johansson is only a voice actor in this film. Before Her, I would have been in an uproar if a voice actor were nominated for any major awards; however, even though Scarlett was not nominated, I truly believe her performance was well worth that level of critical praise. You never see Samantha, but you feel her presence every single time she speaks, and this is all because of Johansson. Throughout the film, there are times you forget Theodore is simply falling in love with an inanimate object because of Johansson’s fluidity. Never has there been a better performance from Johansson, and Samantha will forever be one of the greatest artificial intelligence characters in cinematic history.
This film takes such an interesting perspective on relationships and the ways in which we operate in a world dominated by technology, and even though Theodore is falling in love with his operating system, the way it is depicted on the screen is not that unfathomable given the way technology permeates our lives. No matter what you may think of Jonze as a filmmaker or the concept of this movie, it is well worth the watch. Her is rated R for language, sexual content, and brief graphic nudity.
Her trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzV6mXIOVl4
Academy Award nominations for Her:
Best Picture (Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze, and Vincent Landay, Producers)
Best Original Score (William Butler and Owen Pallett)
Best Original Song (The Moon Song: Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O & Spike Jonze)
Best Production Design (Production Design: K.K. Barrett; Set Decoration: Gene Serdena)
Best Original Screenplay (Spike Jonze)
Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:
13. Fruitvale Station
14. The Place Beyond the Pines
15. Dallas Buyers Club