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.