Spike Jonze is one of the most fascinating people working in Hollywood today. From acting appearances in The Wolf of Wall Street to co-writing Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, the man has a very eclectic taste in the work he chooses. I’ve been following his directorial work since his last feature Where the Wild Things Are which blew me away all the way back in 2009. Now his latest feature, Her, has been wowing audiences around the country and I jumped at the chance to see it.
Theodore Twombly is a writer living in Los Angeles. Having trouble getting over a recent divorce, he decides to purchase a self-aware operating system, Samantha. As they get to know one another, Theodore and Samantha begin to develop a relationship that tests the boundaries of what it means to be in love and what it means to be human.
Her is an astonishing piece of cinema. Jonze has created the most unique love story to grace any form of media in years. An honest depiction of what our future might be like and how we as humans connect to our machines and each other. It truly makes you think about if this world is really far or if it’s actually right around the corner. As someone deemed as a “Millennial,” Her made me feel like I was watching the future of my generation unfurl in front of my very eyes.
The supporting cast is sparse, but the actors who show up take great command of the material. Olivia Wilde and Chris Pratt both great work as Theodore’s blind date and boss respectively. Rooney Mara comes in as Theodore’s ex wife and is there mainly as a surrogate for the naysayers of such a complex relationship. Amy Adams is also grand (as she so often is) as Theodore’s friend who is seeking a connection much like Theodore.
The two leads take this material and bring it to outstanding heights. Joaquin Phoenix is fabulous as Theodore, a man so desperate for connection and love that he goes to a somewhat unusual measure. With this and The Master under his belt, Phoenix is climbing his way back to the top. He’s an incredibly talented actor and he is so committed to his performances that I just buy him in anything. It saddens me that award shows like the Oscars don’t recognize voice acting because I was equally floored by Scarlett Johansen as Samantha. To hop on an idea by Ira Glass, there’s something intimate about just hearing a person’s voice that causes you to think even more about the big picture. Johansen’s vocal performance is so genuine and she becomes more than just a program. Without that, the film wouldn’t work.
Jonze has crafted a science fiction story at its most bare and that makes it feel real. It’s a future that doesn’t seem implausible in the slightest. The relationships we have with our electronics have become so deep and pure that it seems like the perfect relationship: an object that seems to understand you better than any human being ever could. We become so connected with our machines and yet become so disconnected with human beings. Her plays with the line between connect and disconnect that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Her is unlike anything in theaters right now. It challenges your mind and leaves you thinking long after the credits have rolled. I realize that I’ve said the word “connection” a lot in this review, but it is the most important theme in this film it’s hard to shy away from it. It just postulates these ideas about relationships and how we connect as humans that stick in your mind. Jonze takes this concept for all it’s worth and leave no stone unturned. If you haven’t seen anything yet in theaters, I suggest that this be the movie you start your year off with. I have been waiting a while for this film and now that I’ve finally seen Her: I have to say, she’s beautiful.
Her is available for purchase or digital download wherever movies are sold.