her

her

  • her is wonderful.
  • Writer/Director Spike Jonze resists the urge to overemphasize commentary on the ways technology can separate humanity, but the observations are still present. Jonze simply trusts us to observe that people in this movie are engaging computers more than each other. He trusts us to see that companies are now proxies for letter writers, helping families and friends feel connected, even when they really aren’t. To see that Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) only speaks to a single co-worker. Jonze trusts us to understand his thematic message, even if he isn’t obvious about it.
  • His subtlety actually makes the theme more impacting, not less.
  • her’s vocalized themes pertain to relationships, to accepting others for their true selves, and to finding happiness even in times of grief.
  • Thus is the common trait of her’s love stories: Amy (Amy Adams) and Charles (Matt Lestcher); Theodore and Samantha (Scarlett Johansson); Theodore and Catherine (Ronney Mara); even Amy and her husband’s OS. Such thematic overlap connects the characters and invigorates the movie.
  • Humor vitalizes her, as well. Some of the comedy is subtle (Amy’s observations about love and insanity). Some of it is not (SexyKitten [Kristen Wiig’s voice] asking to be choked by a dead cat). All of it works to help her blend sci-fi, drama and comedy.
  • The performances do the same. Joaquin Phoenix once again proves he has remarkable range; he is not replaying Freddie Quell, his manic alter ego from I’m Still Here (2010), Johnny Cash, Merril Hess or Commodus, even if Theodore shares some traits with a few of these characters. No. Theodore Twombly is a unique performance, delivered by a talented actor.
  • The supporting cast is just as sensational. Amy Adams stands out, perhaps only because this character contrasts so dramatically with Sydney Prosser. Scarlett Johansson does terrific work as Samantha’s voice.
  • her does not have many flaws, and those it does have are minor. Charles and Amy’s relationship is a bit under-explored, a bit rushed. Isabella’s (Portia Doubleday) motivations are so badly explained that her actions are scene-killingly weird; if she were getting paid, it would have served the narrative better. As is, we wonder who she is, instead of focusing on the drama between Samantha and Theodore.
  • Furthermore, the final act is paced a tad too quickly. While there is narrative and artistic purpose to Samantha changing rapidly, she still evolves a bit suddenly. Jonze compounds the problem by not deeply exploring the emotional impact of her final decision.
  • Which is not to say the movie’s last scene lacks punch. Amy and Theodore sitting together serves as an exclamation point to an incredible picture.
  • her’s flaws are minor, so minor that this is Spike Jonze’s best movie yet.
  • Final Grade: A-

29 thoughts on “her

  1. Sounds good – I have read a few reviews now and thoroughly looking forward to this film. I like the fact it doesn’t sound as though it is heavy handed in making its points.

    • Thank you! And mine too.

      While I think I’m Still Here was a dumb publicity stunt that ought to have done more damage to both his and Casey Affleck’s careers, Phoenix also sold me with that performance. He can really act.

  2. Great review JJ

    I have never been a fan of spike Jonze, but he really did a great job with this movie. The script and dialogue are done superbly that at the end of the two hours, you just don’t want to leave these characters and are interesting in seeing what will happen to them afterwards.

  3. I totally agree w/ your first bullet point, ‘her’ is wonderful indeed 😀 I didn’t realize it was Wiig’s character as the sexy kitten. That scene made me cringe but it is hysterical seeing Theodore’s expression who’s as perplexed as we are. Joaquin’s range is incredible, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in this soulful kind of role before and he’s got a long list of films!

  4. It’s funny–when I first saw the trailer for this, it seemed so strange that I was kind of put off, but I’ve heard so many wonderful things about it now that I really feel like I should look into it. Your excellent review is yet another reason for me to check this out! 🙂

    • I had the same reaction to the trailer – didn’t like it at all. Liked it so little, in fact, that I remained skeptical of the film’s quality even after seeing so many positive reviews. But it really is good. Exceptionally good, really.

      I think you’ll like it a lot.

  5. Great review! I love love love loved this film. I agree that there are themes about how we interact with technology, though I think maybe you’re putting a little bit of a personal interpretation (or I am, or we both are) by thinking it’s about how we are separated by technology; I think there’s some great examples of the potential for technology to distance us and to bring us together and the film doesn’t seem to fall squarely in either corner. Similarly with almost all its themes – the objectification of woman, a consideration of transhumanism – they’re suggested without being emphasised, which I thought was great. Looking forward to seeing it a second time!

    • Thank.

      And I like it a lot, too. It doesn’t crack my Top Ten, but that’s only because there are so many great movies in 2013. If this had been released in 2012, it would have been favorite of the year. By far.

      And you might be right on the themes. I think there is very strong evidence that points to it showing us technology’s ability to separate. But now that you mention it (again), I can also see evidence to support an alternative interpretation. In the end, maybe that’s what makes Her so thematically effective. It is never didactic and lets us make our own judgements.

      Such a spectacular film.

  6. This is my next movie I need to go see! It sounds great and I like how it brings up what is going on in society today. No one talks to each other anymore. Remember the old days when you had to call people using a phone with a long cord! LOL. Great review I really like what you said about Joaquin Phoenix, he is not the characters he plays, he is just that… a great actor. 🙂

    • Thank you for the kind words! I do remember those long cords. I also remember never being able to sit still when on the phone (I still can’t) and my mom getting really angry how badly I tangled them. 🙂

      And yeah – this is a terrific flick. I think you’ll like it a lot.

      • Yes we didn’t have fancy texts or iPhones, no you had to call your friends right there in the kitchen while your parents watched. I’m seriously laughing right now.

        My sister saw it and loved it too, I definitely need to go. My list right now is this one, Wolf of Wall Street and American Hustle. Decisions decisions!

      • I like Wolf the most. Then this. Followed by American Hustle. But they’re all really good.

        My instinct is you’ll like this more than the other two. Not sure why.

  7. Great review James, upon reflection, Samantha’s evolution did seem a bit rushed and I was left wondering why it was happening. . exactly when it was happening. Still, it made for such a curious and brilliant film. I loved it, good to see you did too.

    • Thanks.

      I can see why it’s your (or anyone else’s) favorite of 2013. It will just miss my Top Ten, but that does not reflect my thoughts on this movie. It says more about the quality of 2013 pictures – I think it was a pretty great year for film. Had “Her” been released in 2012, it would been my favorite of the year, by far.

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