Nominated for five Oscars, Her proves to be a visually stunning, brilliant, quirky and wryly comedic film. Spike Jonze has traded in his Jack-Ass-style absurdist humor and created a sweet melancholy tale, reminiscent in the tone of his recent film adaption of Where the Wild Things Are. In the Jonze-created not-so-hard-to-believe future, we are introduced to the withdrawn and wonderfully mustachioed writer Theodore Twombly, performed subtly yet stunningly by Joaquin Phoenix. Having a hard time coping with his recent break up, Twombly finds himself alone, alternating between work and video games. A once-popular man, the audience watches as friends reach out to Twombly. He rejects most of their gestures and his only active human connection is found in his long-time friend Amy, played by a blonde Amy Adams.
In this world, which seems to be an almost satirical version of the iWorld in which we live today, Jonze invents brilliant new technologies and explores the idea of true human connection. One of the most telling glimpses into Jonze’s idea of the future is the company for which Theodore works: beautifulhandwrittenletters.com. Hallmark on steroids, this company hires writers to create personal letters for people’s loved ones – birthdays, anniversaries, you name it.
Through exploration and invention, the film heats up, introducing the latest piece of technology, an intuitive operating system – “a consciousness,” OS1. Twombly buys the OS, and shortly after starting her up, finds himself developing a peculiar connection to this super-computer, who goes by the name Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.
It doesn’t take long to predict where the film is headed – a lonely man desperately searching for interaction, connection, a humorous, spunky, female character – the film quickly becomes a unique 21st-century love story.
As this romance blossoms, Twombly finds himself opening up and beginning to rekindle and revisit other relationships in his life. After double dates with his co-workers and a closing lunch with his ex-wife, Twombly becomes less and less withdrawn. It could be argued that Samantha, a piece of technology, teaches him to accept the people in his life who love him and open up to the world again.
As an audience, we are completely submerged in this world. Through subtle yet intimate dialogue, breathtaking cinematography and a sweetly melancholy soundtrack, we begin to feel we live in this world alongside Twombly and Samantha. The raw emotion, not thrown in our faces but scattered carefully throughout the movie, is left for us to discover and interpret and leaves little room for dry eyes.
We feel the emptiness in not only Twombly but also the extreme technology-ridden world. We feel the emptiness in our own lives, and we wonder if Jonze is just giving us a glimpse into our own future. Once we get past the disbelief that a human-computer relationship could ever exist, and more absurdly that human-computer sex could exist – yes, it happens, we begin to feel overwhelmed with deep emotion.
Some scenes are a little boring, with long drawn out dialogue and complete silence. While artistically beautiful, these scenes become sleepers pretty quickly. They are balanced by other exceptionally well-written and at times mind-boggling concepts that Jonze depicts on screen.
Tumbling through the almost sci-fi, colorful and soulful film that Jonze has created, we leave the theater with some insight into one view of human connection and relationships as well as the limits of human understanding, consciousness, soul and, through all the complication, the simplicity of heartbreak. Jonze explores the juxtaposition of human interaction and technology. A beautifully crafted work of art, it’s impossible not to be consumed by this quirky romance.