First of all, thank you Joaquin Phoenix for reconsidering your 2008 threat to quit making movies altogether. Maybe you had second thoughts, or maybe the brilliant filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson showed you the script for The Master, and you just knew you had to do it. We’re glad you didn’t stop with that film either because I can’t think of anyone else who could have played Theodore in Her.
Her has so many things going for it. First, of course, is Joaquin. In his role of Theodore, his vulnerability casts him as a modern-day everyman. He wants to love and be loved, but can’t quite figure out how that can happen. When I first heard about this plotline of a man having a relationship with his OS, I thought it was going to be too gimmicky, too hokey. But just as Ryan Gosling loves a blow-up doll in Lars and the Real Girl, Phoenix, too, portrays a man in an “unconventional” relationship, and he makes it believable and powerful. He gets support from two lovely actors, Amy Adams (a standout in so many movies and a co-star of Phoenix’s in The Master), and Rooney Mara (so happy your acting career didn’t stall after your turns in The Social Network and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and you got to be fabulous in Side Effects and important to the storyline in Her). And who else besides Scarlett Johansson could create Samantha, the Operating System, embodying not only sex appeal but also a depth and breadth of human emotional qualities.
So you have a lot of fine acting. Then you have the story—a man becomes deeply involved in a relationship with his computer’s OS. This is the logical (or illogical) extension of what could happen with our utter dependence on our electronic devices. All of our relationships are conducted or mediated through our phones and computers, and the resulting social isolation makes the film instantly recognizable to all of us—it’s the wave of the future, or maybe it’s more deeply embedded than we even realize right now.
I’m not sure we’re ever told exactly when the story is taking place, but it’s sometime in the not too distant future in the city of L.A. The production design meets the requirements perfectly. The sets and costuming complement the future time frame, and the lighting is used effectively to evoke feeling and mood. The movie’s slow pacing allows us to savor these outstanding visuals.
Spike Jonze is the guy who wrote and directed it. You may remember him from such groovy Indies as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. I particularly appreciate him for putting Where the Wild Things Are on the screen.
Okay, I have to admit that I’m getting antsy now to get back to watching Season 1 of Orange is the New Black, and besides that, I’ve said enough. Her is a worthy rental, and in addition to being a well-made movie, it is thought-provoking like no other to come around in a while. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 5/13/14