Her - 2013
Director(s): Spike Jonze
Writer(s): Spike Jonze
Cinematography by: Hoyte Van Hoytema
Editor(s): Jeff Buchanan and Eric Zumbrunnen
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt and Olivia Wilde
I remember watching the trailer for this movie back in 2013 and being a bit hesitant about the subject matter - a man falling in love with an AI - and the director, Spike Jonze. While I love Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, Jonze’s movie before Her was Where the Wild Things Are. A movie that, if I’m being nice, is just simply boring and disappointing. But after walking out with my heart in my throat and fighting a sudden and severe case of allergies that messed my eyes up, I was incredibly impressed by how well-crafted and executed this movie was. Let’s talk about it.
The story takes place in near-future Los Angeles where Theodore, a recently divorced, lonely, introverted and depressed man, works as a writer of love letters for couples that don’t know how to fully express their love. Looking for companionship, but afraid to be with another woman, he gets the latest operating system that comes with the most advance AI, Samantha (Johansson), the world has ever seen. They quickly hit it off as, to his pleasant surprise, she talks and acts just like a real human being, leading to an unlikely romantic relationship.
The reason why I said I was uncertain about the subject matter was my incorrect assumption that it would be corny or uninteresting to see Phoenix talk to the disembodied voice of Johansson. But it ended up feeling more real and genuine than most relationships depicted on screen even though they never share the screen. Their chemistry and their banter was inescapable as it captures you to the point that you are 100% certain a man can truly love an AI and vice versa. Jonez wrote this love story so it naturally progresses and evolves, in a way that it doesn’t seem forced or that they had to fall in love because the script dictated it. Their conversations are funny, personal, caring and warm as they both want to be part of each other’s lives, making the end that much more bitter sweet.
Quick note: The score by Arcade Fire is breath taking as it perfectly complements the scenes and at times elevates the emotions our characters are going through.
The color pallet cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema selected for this movie was pitch perfect as it captures the depression and ultimately the happiness Theodore goes through during this experience. This being set in the near future, there are a few key elements woven throughout the world they inhabit that help the audience understand they are in a different world, but similar enough to ours that it doesn’t look alien. The clothes selected by the wardrobe department also helps to establish this world as it feels like a natural progression of our fashion, especially with the current hipster culture. Usually movies try to be heavy handed with their future worlds that they end up looking fake and unattainable.
My god, can Joaquin Phoenix act. This man made me believe that the love he felt for an AI was real and impactful. That he hanged on her every word and longed for the seconds he had to be with her. His facial expressions change as he starts to get out of his funk and starts to believe again that he can be happy, he can love and feel the way he did before his marriage fell apart. Amy Adams is wonderful as well as his friend and neighbor. She is loving and tender towards a friend that is clearly going through a rough patch. But the one that I didn’t expect to have me hooked by her performance was Scarlett Johansson. Her performance solely depended on her voice and she knocked it out of the park. I could see her in my minds’ eye and feel her emotions as she deals with becoming more and more human while also starting to drift away from the very thing that made her grow. It’s beautifully heartbreaking.
Her is an incredible love story that brings up countless questions that are far harder to answer than to ask them. The exploration of what is love and what it is to be human is something that will draw you in and make you question any preconceived notion you may have on the subjects. I always walk away with something new to ponder and this time around it was the line: “The past is just a story we tell ourselves”. Something so simple yet true in how we can torture ourselves focusing on the negative aspects of our pasts and not highlighting the positive ones, even though we are the writers of said stories in our minds. I love this movie and all of the aspects that came together as a perfect puzzle of human emotions. Spike Jonze is why I love movies.
Her is currently playing on Netflix. Go watch it.
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