Her (2013)

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Her takes place in what could well be a not-too-distant future where people have become even more reliant on and attached to their technological devices. A world where everyone appears to be talking to themselves as they walk down the street, vocally sifting through the onslaught of information coming from their smartphones. Which in the future will take the form of adorable, pocket-sized booklets! And those pants! These boys of the near future would make Fred Mertz jealous with their mad style. Style is one of the strongest things Her has going for it. The costumes are wonderful (who needs to discern another's butt shape, anyway?) and the production design is outstanding. Many things about this movie seem bizarre at first glance, but really aren't that unbelievable as a direction in which we could be heading.

Theodore, the main character, is a likable, lonely man newly separated, but not yet divorced, from his first love. His romantic interactions now often consist of awkward, late-night phone hook-ups with strangers. Man, okcupid keeps getting more and more impersonal. He does have one uncomfortable, in-person date with a scary lady played by Olivia Wilde, as boring and as pretty as ever. It isn't until a new operating system is introduced onto the market that things start to look romantically up for Theodore. After downloading the new OS, Theodore's computer and cute little smartphone booklet are upgraded to sound exactly like Scarlett Johansson. Phew! You know some sad bastard out there probably ended up with the Charlie Day version. As I imagine most men would, Theodore finds himself falling in love with Scarlettbot. I mean, she was designed just for him and she sounds like Scarlett Johansson. Luckily, the feelings are mutual.

The premise of Her sounds incredible and even a little silly. But the movie is not. It's beautifully done. The performances across the board feel real and gracious. As Theodore, Joaquin Phoenix gives one of the best performances in a year particularly rife with wonderful performances. Most of his scenes feature him interacting with and reacting to someone who isn't physically there. And it never feels too embarrassing or ridiculous. It's an incredibly sympathetic, human performance. Amy Adams is marvelously understated as Amy, Theodore's closest friend and the real, living person he can be the most open with. I always love Chris Pratt and this movie is no exception. As the receptionist at Theodore's office, he's sweet and snuggly and Theodore's biggest fan. And he really knows how to rock the Polo shirt and buttless pants look.

Her will leave you melancholy. It doesn't shy away from the ugly things people can do to each other in relationships. But it's lovely, as well. Even if something can't last forever, there's beauty to be found while it's there.


Rare is the film that, upon its closing credits, serves as the basis for a dialogue about the very nature of our existence. Her is that rare film. Tucked into a booth at a bar in the vicinity of the theater, you sit with your friends. You talk about the nature of love. You discuss the prominent role that technology has begun to play in our lives. You lament that Amy Adams doesn't always wear her hair like that, and that Joaquin Phoenix doesn't always have a mustache. And you go home. And you lay in bed and you keep thinking about it. And you go to work the next day and you think about it more. And other people see it and the dialogue starts again and it's not fair to say you start thinking about it again because you've always been thinking about it. I'm thinking about it still.

Her is the story of Theodore Twombly, a professional writer of love letters that people are unable to write themselves. With a pending divorce waiting in the wings, Theodore bides his time wearing high-waisted pants, playing video games, and having phone sex with women who assert ill-will upon dead cats (really). Riddled with loneliness, Theodore strikes up a relationship with his operating system, Samantha. Together, the two navigate both Theodore's life, and the streets of future L.A. They laugh, cry, and love together, and as audience members navigating our own lives right along with them, we cry, laugh, and love as well. While I am corny and sentimental and prone to gush over things, this film is not. It's remarkable perfection.

The cast of Her is filled out with extraordinary supporting performances, especially Amy Adams and Rooney Mara as the other women in Theodore's life. Mara plays Catherine, the former object of Theodore's affection by which he measures the love between he and Samantha. Adams plays Amy, who acts as a confidant and the moral barometer by which Theodore justifies his own actions when she finds herself in the midst of a relationship crisis of her own. Both exude a sadness that is all too familiar, one that is found in the absence of the completion that only love can bring. Olivia Wilde stands out as well, in a performance simultaneously hilarious and terrifying, when Theodore takes her out on a date after being pressured by Samantha to at least try to move on. The icing on this gigantic confection comes from the Arcade Fire, who score Her with an unassuming sound that alternates between atmospheric electronica and sparse piano music.

It's all almost too much. Almost. At times, the beauty in Her is so overwhelming, we're left thinking about scenes that have already happened well into the next scene. As only he can do, Spike Jonze takes a universal story, skews it slightly by placing it into an unfamiliar time or place, and then populates that world with people that are all too familiar. We secretly long to be them.

Early in the film, Theodore Twombly expresses his fear that there is nothing left to feel that he hasn't already felt. As a fan of movies, it can often feel like there is nothing left to see that hasn't already been seen. I've never seen a film like Her, and I just can't stop thinking about it.


Her is a film that is as poetic as the letters its lead character Theodore Twombly writes for a living. It is essentially a romantic comedy for a modern, nerdier audience.

Joachim Phoenix is perfectly charming, meek, and melancholy as Theodore Twombly, a 30 something lonely bachelor who writes poetic letters for a living. Twombly upgrades his computers to a new operating system that develops a personality to compliment his own. He then falls in love with this operating system, self-named Samantha and sexily voiced by Scarlett Johansson. This is already a brilliant concept that emphasizes how we view relationships and technology and how the two are constantly merging and changing together. Just add the brilliant mind of Spike Jonze and we have the best film of the year.

The look of Her is very designy, like an Ikea catalogue. The beautiful color palates and designs run through every set making a coherent, clean, and visionary interpretation of near-future Los Angeles.

Arcade Fire provides an entrancing score. The Addition of piano compositions as part of the story is inspired. Samantha shares these compositions as intimate gifts to Theodore. This brilliantly laces the film with delicate bits of mood while emphasizing the importance of the arts as a tap into our humanity despite the pervading onset of an impersonal technology driven society.

Finally, Amy Adams must be mentioned for turning in some of her best work, mostly subtle with some great tender and emotional moments. She is very charming and provides a great pairing and foil for Mr. Phoenix.