Her: Movie Review
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, Olivia Wilde
Director: Spike Jonze
Cinematic wunderkind Spike Jonze returns with a world that doesn't seem so far away.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a lonely writer who works in a letter writing company. His days are spent helping others connect with their partners, friends and relatives and helping them express emotions that they cannot. Ironically, he's a little repressed, with the final stages of his divorce coming through and he spends his time briefly with friends, at work or playing a virtual video game in his front room.
Melancholy and maudlin, Theodore decides to buy a new artificial operating system, the OS1 to help him get through life. However, once the machine's switched on, it starts to take on a life of its own as it grows and evolves with Theo's interactions. Known as Samantha (and voiced with dusky sultriness by Scarlett Johansson), Theo starts to fall in love...
Her is an incredibly timely piece of cinema, blessed with a great story and intriguing premise.
We already live in a world where technology is running rampant and taking over our lives, so why shouldn't the next step be to fall for a virtual other half? But where Jonze succeeds with this, is that he makes the idea of love and loss seem so plausible and viable - Theodore inhabits a world which embraces retro fashion (with trousers hoisted up around the chest) but can't connect with anyone.
Joaquin Phoenix delivers a multi-layered performance that's heartbreaking, recognisable to anyone who's suffered a romantic loss and which is incredibly joyous. It's a logical conclusion that Ted falls for Samantha and Phoenix really sells the relationship, making us believe totally that this is a man who can no longer connect with human beings for fear of rejection (a divorce from Rooney Mara's character, a failed date with a desperate woman played by Olivia Wilde); he seeks solace in the technology of the world around him as that won't damage him. He even intones at one point "Sometimes I feel I've felt everything I've already ever felt", implying that he's become so distanced from life that the existential is the only way forward.
Credit also has to go to Scarlett Johansson, whose disembodied voice supplies every emotion and nuance needed. She's rightly won awards for this performance and her narration and delivery of lines is pitch perfect. Equally, Jonze needs credit for the Oscar nominated screenplay - while it collects together a story of love and loss, it never loses sight of humour in the technology - from the abuse given to Theodore by the video game he plays to a sex line encounter, there's plenty of humour among the pathos and heart of the piece.
Compassionate, plausible and shrewd, Her is a marvellous piece of cinema - while there is a slight lag in proceedings at one point, it's the only low in a journey that's packed full of highs and which presents a not-too distant future that's both recognisable and emotionally frightening.