Her (R) ★★★½

Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson star in "Her." Photo credit: Warner Bros.
Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson star in “Her.” Photo credit: Warner Bros.

A Love Story Unlike Any Other

Although he writes love letters for a living, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix The Master 2012), is in a lonely place and struggles to cope with his divorce. One day, this recluse develops a dubious relationship with something other than a human.

In Spike Jonze’s (Where The Wild Things Are 2009) fourth film and first original screenplay, Her, audiences catch a sneak peek into a possible near future where technology rules all, even relationships. No, not online dating, more like a relationship with your personal assistant, your operating system (OS). Theodore quickly generates chemistry with a raspy yet soothing voice – his OS named Samantha (voice by Scarlett Johanssen, Don Jon 2013).

Before we know it, Samantha is running through carnivals, enjoying picnics with Theodore’s friends and exploring the streets of Los Angeles. How? Theodore’s smartphone is barely the size of a credit card and paneled with a small eyehole. He fastens a safety pin on his shirt pocket to act as a platform, allowing Samantha to see out the eyehole when he walks.

Jonze’s remarkable romantic drama is fit for the future. While the premise may seem far-fetched at first, the superb performances and script exude an incredible genuineness that completely deflates any sense of implausibility. With the way current society revolves around their phones day in and day out, audiences quickly realize how realistic and relatable this scenario could become. The film runs the gamut of emotion – at times sad, romantic, joyful, comical, raw, creepy and curious all at the same time. Jonze’s original screenplay could easily snag a 2014 Oscar along with its brilliant music score by Grammy award-winning indie rock band, Arcade Fire. Her is clever and thought provoking. How important are emotional and physical connections in a relationship? Could looking into someone’s eyes or greeting them with a big bear hug be a need of the past?

Theodore is highly guarded but seems to convey his emotions with ease while writing personal correspondences on behalf of customers at beautifulhandwrittenletters.com. Thoedore speaks and his words appear in cursive on a computer screen to make it look as though his customer wrote the love note themselves. His personal letters are incredibly heartwarming and vivid to the point that no one would ever guess these letters are from a third party.

After the brief ‘honeymoon stage,’ it is clear that Theodore and Samantha yearn for more than virtual relationship. Their inability to achieve that emphasizes his lonesomeness and ignites more ‘feelings’ in Samantha.

Phoenix is very well suited for his role as Theodore. In fact, his innocent demeanor and small mustache are oddly reminiscent of a teddy bear. While she’s never actually in front of the camera, Johansson’s flirtatious and effervescent voice certainly brings life to the screen. It is interesting to point out that an actress who is well known for her body is an imaginative character in this film.

This movie marks a new milestone for Jonze, who has been previously lauded for his films that were never short of originality, as he wrote and directed this film.

Bottom Line? Her is blissful and heartbreaking at the same time. The compelling original story comes to life with Phoenix’s superb performance and a musical score to match. This drama makes you realize where our society is headed and that a little face-to-face interaction wouldn’t hurt anyone now and then.

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix (Theodore), Chris Pratt (Paul), Rooney Mara (Catherine), Amy Adams (Amy), Scarlett Johansson (voice) (Samantha), Matt Letscher (Charles)

Credits: Directed and Written by: Spike Jonze

Studio: Warner Bros.

Run Time: 126 minutes

Jessica Aymond © December 23, 2013