Heartfelt romantic “dramedy” adds a relevant twist
By Carlos Razo
Have you ever seen someone spend so much time on their smart phone that you wonder, “Why don’t you just marry the damn thing?”
Director Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich,” “Where the Wild Things Are”) has crafted a thought-provoking and tender love story that addresses this issue in society, simply titled “Her.”
Joaquin Phoenix (who was famously “Joaquin the line” as Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line”) stars as Theodore Twombly, an awkward and introverted man living in a slightly futuristic version of Los Angeles. After recently breaking up with his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara), Theodore struggles to find happiness in his empty life, while his divorce lawyers struggle to get him to sign his papers. Working for a company that writes love letters for couples who have trouble expressing their true feelings, Theodore’s loneliness is constantly being thrown in his face.
Soon though, he sees an advertisement for a new computer operating system that features an artificial intelligence designed to respond, think, and adapt much like a human. The A.I., Samantha (Scarlet Johannson), and Theodore hit it off right away, quickly becoming friends, and not long after, fall madly in love.
Once again, Phoenix gives another unforgettable performance as the character Theodore; an Oscar nomination would not be surprising. As supporting characters try to resurrect the laid-back Theodore that has long since gone, Phoenix pulls the audience in with striking emotional honesty. Johansson gives a fantastic vocal performance as Samantha, and even though she is never seen, shares wonderful chemistry with Phoenix. The audience feels her passion with every emoted word, and audiences will find that they have not been treated to an inanimate object this personified since Wilson in “Cast Away.” Amy Adams plays, well, a character named Amy, and as usual, brings her natural charm and charisma to the story.
Indie rock group Arcade Fire provides the score for the film, and like most of Jonze’s films, the soundtrack is unique and fitting. It is not a traditional musical score at all, combining Arcade Fire’s sound with the film action while not being distracting.
Jonze’s script and directing are top notch, seamlessly combining humor, heartbreak, and hope.
While the idea of dating a phone is not condoned in the film, the idea of finding solace and companionship in unexpected places is. The wonders, pain, and reward of falling in love are all dissected in the narrative, because as Amy puts it, “falling in love is a crazy thing to do. It’s like a socially acceptable form of insanity.” As Theodore and Samantha’s relationship begins to deteriorate, Theodore begins to notice just how many people like him have become lost to their mobile devices, ignoring each other and the beautiful world around them.
Jonze’s ability to pull emotion out of the simplest dialogue is one his greatest strengths. Like with “Where the Wild Things Are,” the dialogue and characters seem completely authentic, which draws you into the emotion shared by the performances.
Sentimental, quirky, and relevant enough to spark conversation, “Her” is a soaring success and an exciting beginning to the 2014 movie year. The performances are all nuanced, the script is genuine, and the themes will stick with audiences long after the credits roll. Just like Theodore’s character in the film, it will not take audiences long to also fall in love with “Her.”