Dr. Donna Copeland’s
JOAQUIN PHOENIX SCARLETT JOHANSSON AMY ADAMS ROONEY MARA OLIVIA WILDE CHRIS PRATT
Adaptation and Where the Wild Things Are were films that took everyone by surprise. Writer/director Spike Jonze is the type of auteur that completely distances himself from whatever previous type of project he was involved with and immerses himself in something entirely new and challenging. You could take Jonze’ latest film Her and compare it to Elysium or Oblivion, in which it has nothing in common, and still call it the most impressive film about the future. “That film about the guy falling in love with his computer,” is what you are likely to here in reference to the film, which would be a misunderstanding of the film which aims to self-reflect the modern man's intersection with life, love, sex, technology and most importantly, loss.
Beautiful Handwritten Letters .com is where Theodore (Phoenix) is paid to write letters based on a brief summery from the customer. His ability to understand the personality, urgency and meaning in order to turn it into poetic letters brings out admiration in those around him. On the exterior, however, Theodore is an introvert struggling with a divorce. He purchases the latest artificial operating system (OS1), which is designed to be more like the perfect friend and confidant for each user. She is called Samantha (Johansson) and Theodore begins a friendship that evolves into a strange relationship unlike any he has or will ever have.
It’s undeniable the bit of genius that Jonze has created in this script that is impossibly intuitive. We watch Samantha browse through Theodore’s emails, quickly telling him what to discard and what is important. The more she learns about him, the greater her function is as a person. Jonze takes the most fundamental elements of interaction, friendship and everything in between and just removes the basic concept of being able to physically touch a person. We watch Theodore watch others who become friends or involved with their OS and visually we ask ourselves, is this the future?
Like Jonze’ ability to conjure up so many different concepts for each film, Phoenix and Adams are unrecognizable this year compared to their Oscar nominated performances last year together in The Master. Phoenix, sometimes so close to the camera you can count his nose hairs, again reminds us of his talent and dedication as an actor. The fact that we can so closely associate Johansson with her voice doesn’t detract from never seeing her on screen. Jonze takes the concept of Lars and the Real Girl to a completely different level, perhaps leaving some scratching their heads, and others contemplating what life truly means.
Final Thought – Stands alone in creative and unique subject matter.
By: Dustin Chase
Her is an incredibly imaginative film about everyday lives, but with a strange and creative interface between emotion and technology. Who would have thought it could be done? And who better than Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are)? Psychology is experimenting with psychotherapy over the internet, but the technology in this film is light years ahead of those efforts. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix)—an apt name for the lead, is a lonely, somewhat nerdy writer who is trying to get over his broken marriage. His job is writing letters for people who want him to express their tender feelings for someone else, and he is very good at it--which is rather paradoxical, since he has great difficulty expressing his own feelings, primarily because he is so ambivalent. For example, he goes on a date with a very attractive woman (Olivia Wilde), and the evening is smashing, and yet…
Theodore is handy with technology, as shown by his living room equipped with an advanced gaming system, and when he finds that he can download a new OS program, he immediately tries it. I only wish we had something wondrous like that today: The program is an audio organizer and advisor who speaks to Theodore directly, and, in addition, will learn from her experience with him, allowing her to respond just right to whatever he needs and wants. That is, she becomes tailor-made for him. The voice, “Samantha” is Scarlett Johansson; although we never actually see her because she’s in Theodore’s computer, but we recognize that sexy, soothing voice immediately.
Then comes the uncanny part; she models for Theodore just what he needs—to verbalize his emotions as she gives him unfailing support. This is a voice that is always accommodating, clever, witty, responsive. Really, the perfect companion. He changes, becoming more outgoing, more secure, and happy. Of course, as time goes on, the relationship between him and the “techno voice” begins to develop the usual snags that arise in all human relationships. But Spike Jonze, the writer/director has worked out a way to get through all this, while illustrating the universal need of human beings to feel special, and still ending on a note of potentiality.
Joaquin Phoenix is a wonder in capturing the essence of the character Theodore. The contrasts in his appearance and carriage to give us Theodore in Her, Freddie in The Master, Johnny Cash in Walk the Line—and indeed many of his roles is astoundingly impressive. Scarlett Johansson brings such life to the OS program voice, we end up feeling that we don’t really need to see her; she is there. The appearances of Amy Adams and Olivia Wilde in Her are brief, but essential and noteworthy.
As in Being John Malkovich, Her has little bits of humor sprinkled throughout that adds to the light humor, such as a woman sent by Samantha to Theodore having a stick-on mole to put on her right cheek (reminding of Johansson’s own right cheek mole). Another instance is when Samantha asks Theodore what it would be like if he were to see a human body for the first time, the camera zooms in on various oddly shaped body parts.
I believe Her will be remembered with a smile long after for its quirkiness and gems of human truths, just as Being John Malkovich has been.
By: Donna Copeland