By Eddie Burton (New Jersey)
her-22

 

Way to get 2014 to a great start. I realize that this was released in 2013 but under very limited release. So I’m counting this as a 2014 film. Her stars Joaquin phoenix as Theodore, an anti-social gentleman who recently separated with his wife and is desperate need for companionship but doesn’t realize it. The first thing I love about this film is that just because he in anti-social, he doesn’t completely isolate himself from the rest of the world. He has friends, just not many of them. What I also really like is that when he’s with his friends, he’s not boring or a drag. He puts on a good front and acts normal for lack of a better word.

If you didn’t know Theodore, and saw him walking down the street, you’d think “that guy’s a bit weird” and he wouldn’t really be someone you would want to acquaint yourself with. But once you get to know him, he’s really sweet, and funny. But when he is alone, you genuinely feel for the guy because all his friends have a wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend to go home to. That’s where Samantha comes in. Theodore finds in many respects, a portable app called the OS, which is specifically made for people that feel lonely. He buys in and programs it. Enter Scarlett Johansson as the voice of Samantha. What’s the most spectacular thing about her performance is her ability to convey so much emotion without being seen on camera once. All Samantha is, is a computer, and it wasn’t like Scarlett Johansson had been on set.

Her casting was a last minute decision and she recorded all her lines in a booth without Joaquin phoenix being there with her, which makes her performance all the more amazing. Obviously, when you hear the voice, you automatically think Scarlett Johansson. But in my opinion, that works to the films advantage, cause it’s never a bad thing to have Scarlet Johansson in your movie. I’m really glad she’s taking chances with her career and challenging herself as an actress. Unlike someone like Chris Evans or Chris Hemsworth who are good actors, but tend to play safe, marketable roles and use their superhero roles as ways to get noticed. If you think of Scarlett Johansson, you don’t think of Black Widow from The Avengers. You think of Samantha from Her or Charlotte from Lost in Translation or Barbara from Don Jon which is nothing but good for her career. I honestly think at 29 years of age, she’s already one of the best actresses working currently.

Along with Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams brings in a heartfelt performance as Amy whose really Theodore’s only real friend. You ever notice that it’s becoming more and more frequent that actors and actresses who work together can also say they’ve been in a superhero film. Amy Adams/Man of Steel and Scarlett Johansson/The Avengers. Really shows how big superhero films have gotten over the past five years but I digress. What’s also great is how the film is set in the future and how much atmosphere you get. They take you through this world they’ve created and show you all the interesting gadgets that there future holds. I can really appreciate how the writers did it subtly and this future is completely realistic. When you look at it, you can say to yourself, “yeah I can see the world having that in 20 years.” It’s fantastic because the temptation to completely go off the wall and over the top is really tough to overcome. You can do whatever you want. But the writers restrained themselves which makes you value the film even more.

Now we get to the relationship between Samantha and Theodore. I mean, how tough must it be to make an audience believe that a human and a computer can have a real relationship. Hollywood doesn’t make many true romance films anymore. Generally speaking, for the most part, they’re subplots in a film rather than the main focus. So initially, I was hesitant to give this film much of a chance. But to my surprise, I completely bought it. This movie made me feel for a computer/human love relationship. It’s all done in dialogue and it takes it time with the relationship. Theodore and Samantha share very real, believable moments and you almost forget that it’s a computer talking with Theodore. It’s incredible to watch, every time a scene ended with them two, I say to myself “wow, how did they do that?” Which speaks volumes.

[SPOILERS]
There’s a scene in the film where Samantha and Theodore sex talk together and actually orgasm. Now how can you watch that without laughing? Well apparently you can because Spike Jonze wrote it ingenuously. When you see the script and it says “Samantha and Theodore partake in intercourse” it sounds hilarious. But when you see it onscreen, you buy it 100%.
[SPOILERS END]

I can’t really talk about any problems the film had because the film went everywhere I wanted it to go and did it so smart and did it with extreme discipline. My problems with the film are miniscule and can be categorized as “nitpicks.” For example, there’s a scene where Theodore is playing a video game and the character in the game and Theodore are actually having a conversation. How does that work? But it doesn’t play into the main story so it’s not a big deal. There’s also the problem I had with the scenes where Theodore and Samantha talk in public. It’s never really said if people around Theodore can hear Samantha or not. Some scenes, other people do hear her, and others, they don’t. It’s never fully explained when others can’t hear her, how that works.

There’s also a scene near the end where Theodore comes to a realization and notices something he never did before. I kind of questioned that because at the end of the day, all Samantha is, is a computer, a program. So you couldn’t have just noticed what you just noticed. Once you see the film, you’ll know what I mean. But again, you can make an logical argument to the problem and say that he got lost in the relationship he was having with Samantha (as we did) and didn’t want to think of the fact that she’s a computer. But that brings me to the ending and how genius it is. Because it doesn’t insult the audience and go for the clichéd “well she’s a computer but at the same time, she’s not.” No, they make sure the audience understands that Samantha was a computer and always was. At the expense of Theodore sure, however that makes Theodore come to grips with the real world.

Part of the ending of Her reminds me of the ending of Mary Poppins where Mr. Banks leaves to get fired from his job. No dialogue, all music and it’s just Theodore and Amy coming to grips with reality. The music really shines and I love how movies can use music to their advantage and can make a scene come to life with more impact using music rather than dialogue. Letting the audience, in some respects, come up with their own ending. It really shows the talent of Spike Jonze and the actors. Altogether, this film is smart, imaginative, daring, genuine, funny, touching, and creative. This film needs to be in every film class to be studied, analyzed, and to show future actors, directors, and writers that this is how a film should be made.

I probably shouldn’t say that this is one of my favorite films of 2014 since were very early in the new year, but I’ll be surprised if a film is able to make number 1 on my favorite films of 2014 other than this one. But we’ll see. Be sure though to check this film out.

Rating: 9/10

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