By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
After watching this film, it struck me curious that the film received the Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture (Musical or Comedy). Then, the more thought I put into labeling this movie, it nearly became impossible to give it a label that truly satisfied me. Spike Jonze’s latest film is so much more than a comedy, drama, science fiction, or dare I say it, a romantic comedy. The film has all of these elements and so many layers that it cannot be pigeon holed in any one way. Prior to seeing this movie, I had praised Gravity for being the most well rounded film released last year. Now that I have seen Her, I feel that Jonze’s masterpiece is more deserving of that praise, as well as my pick for the best picture of 2013.
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombly, a lost and lonely writer who has trouble getting on with his life after his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) files for divorce. Feeling his life is a mess, he purchases an advanced operating system which literally has a personality of its own. Giving herself the name Samantha (the voice of Scarlett Johannson), Theodore’s OS not only helps him get his life better organized, “she” becomes a good friend who is willing to lend him a sympathetic ear. Because Samantha is a learning computer, she evolves rather quickly and the two form a romantic bond. As with all relationships, the romance between Samantha and Theodore faces the obstacles of jealously and selfishness, but the fact that they can never express their love physically poses an even greater threat to their relationship.
Written and directed by Jonze, Her is a brilliant piece of filmmaking that makes a romance between a man and an artificial intelligence feel as real and genuine as one between two people. The film also works as an intelligent satire on people’s obsession with their computers, mobile devices, and social media. Jonze superbly shows how less connected people have become with one another and how much easier it is to connect with an artificial being instead. In making Samantha a complex and learning operating system that uncannily mimics human behavior and personality traits, makes their romance feel like something that could very likely occur in our near future.
With outstanding direction and writing, Her hits all the perfect notes. Jonze wonderfully combines his brand of smart, witty, and unconventional humor with sweet romance and heartbreaking drama. The story and characters captivate. Jonze’s cast all deliver excellent performances.
Joaquin Phoenix perfectly nails his role as the sensitive, sweet, and heartbroken Theodore. He truly makes him a lovable character with whom most people can relate and identify. Scarlett Johannson’s sublime voice work as Samantha is proof positive that there exists a need for voice performances awards. She beautifully expresses so many feelings and emotions with only her voice and no physical embodiment whatsoever. The lovely and talented Amy Adams offers an outstanding supporting turn as Theodore’s best friend Amy. After seeing so many films last year, all three of these actors deserve nominations for their work here.
I have to say that Joaquin Phoenix deserves to win best actor accolades this year, as does Jonze for best director and best screenplay. After finishing this review, I will have to revise my top ten list for 2013, because I cannot think of any other film that can top this one. It perfectly exemplifies what I look for in a motion picture and has earned the number one spot on my list. It truly is a magical film.