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Review: The magical, lonely love of Spike Jonze's Her

Movie:
HER
Director:
Spike Jonze
Cast:
Scarlett Johansson, Joaquin Phoenix, Spike Jonze
Avg user rating:

How essential are physical and emotional connections when falling in love? In Her, Spike Jonze's futuristic exploration of a man's relationship with his computer, the filmmaker surveys human disjunction.

Joaquin Phoenix is Theodore, a loner struggling to cope with his unwanted divorce from Catherine (a sullen Rooney Mara). Theodore has become guarded, but his work requires an outpouring of emotions as he pens tender, personal letters for others at beautifulhandwrittenletters.com.

After seeing an ad for an artificial intelligence operating system, Theodore purchases one and finds his new OS is voiced by a dame with a sultry, whiskey-stained tone named Samantha (a witty and relaxed Scarlett Johansson, who is never seen on-camera). Samantha is at Theodore’s beck and call.

Communicating by way of an earpiece and a small hand-held device, she keeps him on schedule and encourages him to get back out there and go on a blind date. His date (Olivia Wilde) critiques his kissing ability and scolds him for refusing to indulge in the idea of a relationship. “I’m not in a place where I can commit right now” becomes one of Theodore’s signature lines, even as he becomes smitten with Samantha.

But eventually Theodore and Samantha, who is eager to please and has the ability to grow through her experiences, fall for each other. Jonze captures real intimacy as the couple greet each other in the morning and say goodnight when the day is done.

Jonze has become known for creating bewildering worlds, from his work on the maniacal Oscar-nominated “Being John Malkovich,” his layered “Adaptation” and the heart-rending “Where the Wild Things Are.” He’s also crafted arresting videos for inventive artists like Bjork and Kanye West. But Her is the first feature film he’s penned solo and he’s never been so ingenious.

In a dark theater, surrounded by the wondrous world Jonze creates in Her, it’s difficult to avoid getting emotional.

Visually Jonze has built a bold dreamland: a near-future Los Angeles awash with primary colors and warm pastels that tickle our childlike senses.

Amy Adams delivers a delicate portrayal of Theodore’s lovelorn neighbor and best friend, Amy. She supports his decision to date his OS, but thinks anybody who falls in love is a freak.

But Theodore’s ex-wife thinks his latest turn at love is crazy. “You always wanted to have a wife without actually dealing with anything real,” she tells him. Thus, the lingering questions are brought to the forefront: To what lengths would we go to avoid certain truths? And could virtual affairs be the inevitable evolution of relationships in our tech-blooming society?

Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is going through a divorce when he buys an artificial intelligence operating system voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Communicating via an earpiece and a small device, the two fall in love. Spike Jonze directed and wrote Her,and he’s never been more ingenious.

Rated R

Running time: 126 minutes.

 

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