Her (2013)

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That cinematography!

I had high expectations going into what was called the “best film of 2013”, especially due to the fact that it had a stellar cast and garnered universal critical praise.  But to be completely honest, I wasn’t blown away while watching Her, nor did it change my outlook on life like it did for others. However, I did appreciate the overall world Spike Jonze created, and I thought he brought all the elements of the film together very well artistically.

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a sensitive, lonely, and introverted man whose job is to write love letters for other people—this opening scene is laced with irony and sets the tone for the rest of the film, as he is emotionally struggling with his impending divorce from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara).  As a result, he downloads a computer operating system (OS) with artificial intelligence as a companion.  Theodore becomes fascinated with the program, called “Samantha” (Scarlett Johansson), and as the film progresses, he begins to fall in love with her.

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Theodore downloads Samantha, a talking OS, who is voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

I was most impressed with the acting abilities of the cast.  Joaquin Phoenix is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood today, and this film just showcases his immense talent—and the fact that he can display such a wide range of emotion and desperation when he is only interacting with a voice and not an actual human being. Over the course of the story, we marvel at Theodore’s character development from heartbreak to relief to heartbreak again.  There is no physical interaction, no face nor body for Theodore, only a computer in his ear.  Samantha is voiced by Scarlett Johansson, which in itself could be worthy of an Oscar nod.  She arguably brings out an even wider emotional range in the way she speaks, and her playful tone drives the plot of the film.  At one point, I even became annoyed with Samantha when she became “upset” with Theodore; she was showing so much human emotion as an OS that I forgot she wasn’t human.  I hadn’t expected her character to be so sensitive.  Scarlett Johansson’s casting was brilliant.

I especially loved the flashbacks with Theodore and Catherine, which were thoughtfully interwoven into the present scenes in the form of silent montages.  This technique is undoubtedly effective in showing that Theodore needs to regain the structure, stability, and love that he previously had in his life.  I thought Rooney Mara was perfect as Catherine, and I would have liked to see more development of their relationship and backstory.

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My problems with Her: I just felt that some scenes, such as the video game and phone sex (what even?) scenes were too strange and awkward for my taste and didn’t fit into the overall atmosphere of the movie.  But that may be just me.  Love in the modern (or near future) age is tricky; loneliness is an obstacle that must be overcome through time.  This message is attempted in Her, and despite the outstanding performances and beautiful cinematography, I ultimately failed to grasp the main storyline—the concept of a man in a relationship with his computer.

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