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December 21, 2013

Film Review: Her

by Minnie Li

Spike Jonze has only directed four films since Being John Malkovich in 1999, which garnered praise and won him an Oscar nomination. Her is his latest and his first solo writing credit. Like his previous works, Her is a melancholic meditation on life. This time, the sense of emotional displacement, the desire for intimacy, and understanding and acceptance of oneself take place in a love story between a man and a computer operating system.

Her is set some time in the near future in Los Angeles, which is then made up of beautifully planned buildings and an immaculate landscape. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) lives and works in these high rises. He has a dull office job as a personal letter writer. Theodore prefers being alone and avoids extended conversations. He hides in his ear bud—a sort of smart phone of the future—which organizes his life and connects him to his personal computer and the Web. But a new, advanced operating system enters the market. It is a significant advance: it has consciousness. Theodore meets his OS 1, and it named itself Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Samantha’s first word to him is a radiating “Hello.” He hesitates, and responds awkwardly.

Clearly, they are opposites, but their connection is immediate; they fall in love. Their relationship feels real—with the honeymoon phase, the ecstasy, the laughter, the fight, the jealousy, and the emotional connection that every human couple experiences. The chemistry between Phoenix and Johansson is impeccable. He tells her everything and she listens and offers advice. He no longer mopes. As life becomes less of a burden, Theodore goes on dates, finds time for friends, and finally faces his divorce process.

The film uses vivid colors—shades of orange and red—that fill the screen with warmth. Theodore wears brightly colored button-ups, which is ironic, given the contrast with his personality. He is not what he wears. Its visual vibrancy sometimes recalls Wes Anderson (there, as well, bright colors don’t indicate light-heartedness or joy). In these films, life is more complex and mysterious than its immediate sheen implies. Her and Jonze are simply unmissable.

Limité Rating: 5/5

Director: Spike Jonze

Screenwriter: Spike Jonze

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Pratt, Rooney Mara, Amy Adams, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Olivia Wilde

Distributor: Warner Bros.


TRT: 126 min.

Release: Currently in limited release; opens wide January 10

posted by: Minnie Li
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