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Her (2013)

Josh Reviews Her

There’s no doubt in my mind that Spike Jonze is one of the very finest filmmakers working today.  Like most of the rest of the world, I was quite taken by his loopy first film, 1999’s Being John Malkovich (I can’t believe it came out so long ago — I need to find the time to see that great film again some-time soon!), and I loved Adaptation even more (click here for my review).  But it was his 2009 adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are that shot my appreciation of Mr. Jonze’s skills into the stratosphere.  I absolutely adored that film (click here for my review), and I named it as my very favorite film of the year.  I was so taken by Mr. Jonze’s singular vision in adapting that story.  I can’t imagine any other director creating such a remarkably tender, poignant piece of work.

So I’ve obviously been looking forward to Mr. Jonze’s next film for some time.  And while Her might not have been, for me, at the level of Where the Wild Things Are, I still found it to be a riveting piece of work, and another gorgeous, emotional film from this talented director.  (And writer.  Mr. Jonze also wrote the film, his first time as a solo-screenwriter.)

Set in the not-too-distant-future, Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore.  Theodore seems a nice young man, and he is a talented writer who does well at his small-time job.  But he is lonely.  Taken by an advertisement he sees for a new operating system with an artificial intelligence, Theodore purchases the system and finds that his life quickly begins to be changed by the vivacious new personality in his life (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), who names herself Samantha.  Theodore and Samantha’s bond gradually becomes more intimate, and the film charts the course of the relationship between the two.

I was quite struck by the gentle love story Mr. Jonze has created with this film.  There’s a sci-fi hook (“Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his cell phone!”) and there is certainly some commentary in the film about the direction of our electronics-obsessed culture.  Will our technology help connect us to one another, or make us more distant from each other?  This is not a “message” film, but Theodore’s job (writing intimate letters to loved ones from people who can’t or won’t write them themselves) is a powerful statement as to where Mr. Jonze might stand on that particular debate.  Even more striking than that are several memorable long-shots, scattered throughout the film, in which we see crowds of people moving (down streets, through halls), with everyone’s eyes glued to their phone/mobile … [continued]