Her (2013)

Director:  Spike Jonze
Cast:  Joaquin PhoenixAmy AdamsScarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara
Plot:  A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that's designed to meet his every need.

Genre:  Comedy / Drama / Romance
Awards:  Won 1 Oscar - Best Original Screenplay.  Nom. for 4 Oscars - Best Picture, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Original Song.
Runtime:  126min
Rating:  M18 for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity.

"We are only here briefly, and in this moment I want to allow myself joy."

Maybe Spike Jonze had an epiphany and found the truth (or limits) of the human experience, its very existence as defined primarily by relationships with others, romantic or otherwise.  Her, a brilliant drama with a bit of a science-fiction slant, is about a middle-aged guy named Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) who is facing an impending divorce from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara).  He purchases a new product, a new OS (operating system) of sorts with artificial intelligence capabilities.  Such is his fascination for the OS that he falls in love with it in more ways than one.

Jonze is in top form, and this is the first time he is directing from his original screenplay, after working with writer Charlie Kaufman in Being John Malkovich (1999) and Adaptation (2002), and adapting Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (2009) previously.  He is finally getting some awards recognition with his Golden Globe win for Best Screenplay, but truth be told, with or without the Golden Globe, Jonze remains to be one of the sharpest and imaginative of filmmakers working today.

Her also stars Amy Adams in a supporting role, but it is Scarlett Johansson’s sweet, sometimes sultry, voice that steals the show.  Together with a measured performance by Phoenix, the film sees Johansson playing the role of the invisible woman as Phoenix communicates with his OS in increasingly joyful, but also heartbreaking ways.

Throughout the film, we see a lot of ourselves in Theodore – he is symptomatic of a the multi-technological, multi-mediated world that we reside in, a place where human relationships, imperfect as they are, are slowly being eroded by their more complete, and possibly evolving ‘digital’ ones.  Where is our place in the natural order if we are creating other worlds and beings to amuse ourselves?

Her may be slow-moving and dialogue-centric, but it never ceases to compel.  It sometimes even achieves a level of transcendence where certain moments reflect and capture so honestly yet fleetingly the meaning of our existence.  Jonze’s film is at once real, fantastic, emotional, metaphysical, and while it seems like it is based on a concept that might see the light of day in a decade or so, you might be surprised (or not) to learn that it has already begun in Japan.

Verdict:  A sweet yet somber drama that deals metaphysically and emotionally with the perils and wonder of relationships that is unique to the style and wit of Spike Jonze.


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