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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » Her
Warner Bros. // R // December 18, 2013
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted December 17, 2013 | E-mail the Author
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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There are countless films set in the future, but how many of them stand out? When a screenwriter decides to put us in the middle of a specific world, one of their most difficult tasks is to make us feel immersed in it. They have to make it feel as if it's a living and breathing environment that will keep audiences hooked from start to finish. This is a much more difficult feat than it sounds. Writer/director Spike Jonze pursues a futuristic love story with his newest motion picture called Her. Nothing is what it appears to be, as Jonze does a lot more than explore a romance. He's analyzing and criticizing the human condition with the lead protagonist, who is extremely easy to sympathize with. The ability to deliver on such a character speaks of the raw talent that this filmmaker possesses. Her will make you feel several different emotions through its two-hour running time, and none of them outstay their welcome.

In the near future, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely writer who creates incredibly well-worded and thoughtful letters on the behalf of an individual to another. He's still holding onto his marriage to Catherine (Rooney Mara), which has fallen apart. He spends his days going to work, playing video games, and speaking with Amy (Amy Adams), who is his one close friend. After being introduced to a new operating system that's designed to meet one's every need, Theodore decides to purchase it. This system is programmed to be individually coded for the individual consumer. It introduces itself as Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Theodore soon finds himself developing strong feelings for her that are all too real.

With Samantha often being in the abstract, it isn't surprising to see the remainder of the film presented in a similar style. Not only does the picture play off of the human mind, but also the human condition. A lot of the running time is spent with Theodore talking to Samantha, who is not a living being. However, the audience hears her dialogue via a voice-over as if we're hearing her through the same earpiece as Theodore. Writer/director Spike Jonze's delivery of this is all-too powerful and effective. Viewers will be just as tricked into believing that Samantha is a human being as our lead. Her constantly plays off of our imagination. Even though we never see Samantha on screen, it always feels like she's physically present in the room. The deep message underneath the entire film is the exploration of the human condition. What does it mean to be lonely, how does it affect us, and what role does technology play? There's something charming about seeing such a relatable character fall hopelessly in love, even though it isn't with a physical person. However, humans have become insanely dependent upon technology, and this not-too-distant future displays an even stronger sense of this. Not only does Samantha represent technology itself, but our obsession to continue chasing the next biggest thing on the market. Our desire for more has no end.

There's truly something magical about this script. Not only does it deliver this story in a brilliant way, but it moves in an unbelievably fluid fashion. The pacing is absolutely phenomenal, as it never slows down enough for your mind to wander for a single moment. The plot and the characters are constantly in motion, while still giving us enough time to view this world from our protagonist's perspective. Dialogue is rarely this witty, charming, and aware. Writer/director Spike Jonze has strong characters with powerful motives, which is only matched by the insanely witty dialogue that aid in keeping you captivated by the story that's being told. The relationship between Theodore and Samantha continues to get more serious with each passing scene, making the stakes much more monumental. The ending had me sitting at the edge of my seat, eating each and every word of dialogue being uttered. Jonze ends on a clear note, but doesn't bash us over the head with what he's trying to communicate. This makes it a much more impactful final few moments, as it continued to linger in my mind for quite some time after the credits were done rolling.

Spike Jonze's screenplay is filled with engaging content that doesn't quite fit into a single genre. It's romantic, dramatic, and comedic all at the same time. All three of these genres are balanced extraordinarily well. From the moment the running time begins, Jonze expresses the dramatic aspect of the motion picture. By the time the feature has come to an end, you will have been introduced to dramatic elements that might not be entirely new or unique, but have been executed in a smart way. You'll constantly find yourself wanting Theodore to succeed and for him to find the true love that he deserves. The romantic aspect of the film is loud and clear, since the entire story is all about true love and the outcome of such a thing. Fortunately, Jonze knows how far he's allowed to take it before it starts getting tacky. He clearly understands how to give audiences a lump in their throat during the emotional portions of the running time, but doesn't take it too seriously when it isn't appropriate. There's quite a bit of humor incorporated throughout, which proves to work extremely well. Her doesn't intend to have you consistently laughing out loud, but it's aware of itself and isn't afraid to poke fun at the story, the human condition, and our dependence on technology.

If the great concept isn't enough to convince you to head to the cinemas, then the cast should. The talented Joaquin Phoenix leads Her in the role of Theodore. He's an excellent fit in this role, as he displays this lonely man with an amount of charm that comes across as authentic and raw. This performance is extremely relatable and powerful, as he handles the transition changes with masterful results. Scarlett Johansson is brilliant as Samantha. Even though she isn't in a single shot of the picture, her voice-over is quite extraordinary. Her chemistry with Phoenix feels more magical than most on-screen relationships that we see, which is quite an incredible feat. The supporting roles are very brief, but aid greatly in making this a more well-rounded world to explore. Amy Adams acts as Theodore's emotional support, but she also brings some humor to the screen. Adams has never starred in a role such as this, but it works. Rooney Mara does a marvelous job as Catherine. Even though she's only shown in silent flashbacks and in a lunch scene, she does a great job in making her relationship believable with Phoenix. This is an all-star cast filled with convincing performances that simply make this picture feel even more outstanding.

Even though it isn't absolutely perfect, Her is one of the best films of the year. It completely immerses its audience into its world with its strong characters and incredibly well-written screenplay. This motion picture works with a few different genres, but creates a great balance between them. The transitions between each of them are very natural, as well. Writer/director Spike Jonze takes his time ensuring that we understand the world and the perspective in which we're viewing it from. However, this is more than a love story. This is a plot about the human condition and the technology that we're all so dependent upon. There are several messages that are underneath the surface, yet the filmmakers are never too heavy-handed with any of them. Her is a beautifully-told motion picture that's filled with emotion. It will have you feeling each emotion it intends by the time the credits are rolling. You're doing yourself a disservice by not checking this one out. Highly recommended!

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