Spike Jonze is the master director of theater of all things weird. Jonze breaks down the boundaries of strange and finds a way to make the audience buy into nearly any crazy premise. Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Jonze’s new film Her are prime examples of the director’s extraordinary and absurd filmmaking. This time in Her, Jonze explores a unique love story that may be exactly where humans and the technology we love so much are heading.
After getting out of a failed relationship, a lonely writer named Theodore purchases a new computer operating system that is made to adjust to the owner’s lifestyle. Imagine Siri crossed with the T-800 Neural Net Processor computer from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but instead of the Governor of California or that smug Siri, Theodore gets Samantha. The soft-spoken female voice of the operating system is voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Theodore and Samantha begin to connect on an emotional level through conversations as Samantha discovers the living world.
I know Her sounds ridiculous, but it’s really not. How many times have you cursed at Siri for not giving you the right directions or thanked her when she gives you the answer to a question that was driving you nuts. In every futuristic movie, there is always some nerd with a robot girlfriend. Jonze is showing you the beginning stages of a romantic relationship that will probably turn from science fiction to science fact in the near future. The reason you believe in the man and machine love story is the sweet and emotional performances of Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson.
Scarlett Johansson gives one of the best acting jobs of her career without appearing in a single frame of film in Her. Not since Robin Williams in Aladdin (don’t judge) have I witnessed a voice only role that deserved to be in the Oscar mix. Johansson breaks that trend in Her as the operating system Samantha. You really began to treat Samantha (Johansson) as a real character with emotions and feelings. If it were up to me, I would nominate Johansson for Best Supporting Actress, but remember I’m the Anti-Critic. I can tell you that Scarlett Johansson’s voice performance in Her is 10 times better than the overrated Oprah Winfrey in Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Toss Oprah out of the Oscar ring because Scarlett’s voice in Her needs to be recognized.
The argument over the worthiness of Johansson’s role in Her will dominate the Oscar conversation, but the real star of the film is Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix is left on his own in Her sharing the scenes with just the voice of Samantha coming through his earpiece or computer speakers. Phoenix creates great chemistry and learns to dance verbally with a partner who’s not physically present. You can see Theodore change as he learns that love can be taught, but it’s still difficult to understand.This is Joaquin Phoenix’s best acting job since Walk the Line. Spike Jonze gives us the best onscreen couple of the year with Theodore and Samantha and gives the audience a glimpse of what the future holds.
Overall, I give Her 3.5 out of 4 stars.
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