‘Her’ Review

Published 9 months ago by , Updated October 17th, 2014 at 9:18 pm,

Her Reviews starring Joaquin Phoenix Scarlett Johansson and Amy Adams 2014 Her Review

Her is further proof that the outlandish imagination of Spike Jonze may be one of the most accurate and insightful lenses for observing the great human saga.

In Herfilmmaker Spike Jonze treats us to a vision of the near-future where we meet sensitive writer Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a man in the midst of a lonely depression as a result of his impending divorce. Theodore is a hardcore tech-geek of this Apple-brand future world, which is why it’s no surprise that he’s lured in by the debut of “OS 1,” a new artificially intelligent computer operating system.

Theodore’s A.I. companion quickly fashions an identity for herself as “Samantha” (Scarlett Johansson) and goes about trying to improve Theo’s life, as well as his sullen disposition. Before long, Theo finds that he is connecting to Samantha better than he has any of the real women he’s encountered; but when man and computer begin an earnest love connection, the ramifications of that “love” will impact them in ways neither of them ever expected.

Her 2014 directed by Spike Jonze Her Review

Spike Jonze is famous for his high-concept films like Being John Malkovich or Where the Wild Things Are that use very unorthodox premises to provide for real and relevant insight into the human mind and/or soul, as it relates to connective thread of life experience. In Her, the goal is to examine the process of loving through a non-traditional, non-physical relationship, set within a world that borders eerily close to our tech-infused (and as a result, alienating) modern reality. But while Jonze does indeed succeed in creating a very engaging and fresh twist on an old tale, the resulting commentary may feel overly-familiar (and somewhat predictable) by the end of the journey.

On a directorial level, Jonze has once again brought his unique visual creativity to life in a very grounded way. The future he imagines looks all-too-real and organically grown out of the world we live in now – seemingly familiar while still providing the technological flourishes that make sci-fi interesting and thought-provoking when compared to current reality. The bright color schemes, sepia-washed cinematography and scene-to-scene composition combine for a visual palette that is captivating without being distracting, and the world of the film is, in general, a fun sandbox to play in while getting deeper into the emotional character story.

Rooney Mara in Her 2014 Her Review

Rooney Mara in ‘Her’

The script was also written by Jonze, and it progresses according to a carefully-controlled tempo and smart series of stops along the narrative and character arcs, providing strong development by way of some episodic tangents into Theodore’s attempts to reclaim some form of love in his life. This an intimate, honest, often funny, charming and very insightful story that manages to strike some pretty universal emotional chords. However, at the same time, the script also rehashes many familiar tropes used by any number of previous books or films about the journey back from heartbreak.

From the premise alone you can probably guess how the movie flows (initial “puppy-love,” the first signs of tension or doubt, the hard realities of commitment, etc…) and most of the deeper themes of the story are not exactly woven in with subtlety. From the first encounter between Theo and Sam there is a very clear target Jonze is aiming for, and he locks sight on that target and shoots directly for it, relying on the experience of the journey and the fresh opportunities provided by the futuristic setting to be more engaging than the somewhat cliched destination. Still, by the end, there is uplifting sentiment to be found, even if the character arc is wrapped much more neatly than some of the other interesting narrative threads – and even if the final send-off is an echo of something we’ve seen so many times before.

Joaquin Phoenix in Her 2014 Her Review

Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson in ‘Her’

Joaquin Phoenix is tasked with holding the screen (often alone) for the majority of the film’s scenes, and he once again proves to be a great actor of his generation, with a very nuanced and sensitive portrayal of a man searching for the next phase of his life. He’s never over-the-top or melodramatic, and his interactions with an off-screen character feel as genuine and emotive (if not more so) as a scene with an actual actress. It might be too subtle of a performance to really net the actor an award (as opposed to just nominations), but is a great one, nonetheless.

The biggest surprise in the film, however, is the effectiveness of Scarlett Johansson as Samantha. When appearing onscreen in person, Johansson tends to be the object of heavy scrutiny and quick ridicule; but in providing her vocals for this role, she quickly and thoroughly charms the ear through her interactions with Phoenix, while also maintaining subtle inflections that reflect the reality that while personable, she is still playing a machine (ex: switching from natural conversation tone to more mechanized functional tones). There are portions of the film where the actress’s voice performance borders dangerously close to melodrama and/or camp – but some of that blame can be attributed to the demands of the story and the written dialogue, while other times it is indeed the delivery at fault. All in all though, Samantha is a great character and Johansson is truly the engine that powers her.

Amy Adams in Her 2014 Her Review

Amy Adams in ‘Her’

Curiously enough, Her has a supporting cast of consisting of hot-item actors playing very small roles in what is essentially a two-person show between Phoenix and Johansson. You have a mousy-looking Amy Adams playing Theodore’s longtime friend, neighbor and fellow geek; Chris Pratt shows up in several scenes as Theodore’s supportive and admiring co-worker; while Olivia Wilde and Rooney Mara carry some of the most awkward and uncomfortable scenes in the film, playing Theo’s blind date and estranged wife, respectively. It’s definitely more star power than was needed, but it is no less appreciated since the actors are all solid performers.

In the end, Her is further proof that the outlandish imagination of Spike Jonze may be one of the most accurate and insightful lenses for observing the great human saga. While the premise of Her may seem silly or unappealing initially, Jonze and his performers certainly sell it well and ground it in a way that anyone who has ever struggled with the mysteries of love and self-identity (meaning, everyone) will find at least one familiar chord to serve as  a port for them to plug into the tale.

And if in ten years we see people seeking the solace of love from digital companions, we’ll have only to say that Spike Jonze showed us the way…

517992100 3 725 498 Her Review

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Her is now expanding to wider release. It is 126 minutes long, and is Rated R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity.

Follow me and talk movies @ppnkof

Our Rating:

4 out of 5
(Excellent)

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  1. Saw it last night. I simply could not believe it and would thrash out a 5/5 every single time.

    The movie is the middle ground between ‘S1mOne’ and ‘Lars and the Real Girl’. The real genius though is how accepted the idea of dating an artificial intelligence is. Only one person questions it (jealousy). The primary theme is one of projection of course. How you want someone to look. Behave. We all know this as we all exist online. But it offers silent acceptance, like all do towards each other on social networks because we all know why we are here anyway. The point of ‘Her’ then is to not illustrate the necessity of a log out. More, who says you ever have to if you recognise the limitations of the benefits any kind of companionship outside of the tangible, the physical can offer:

    “Just nice to be with someone excited about life.”

    Conclusion? ‘Her’ might be the most poignant, the most non-judgemental meta-commentary on 21st Century social network… “relationships”. Just simply adored it and it is in my opinion, the masterpiece of Spike Jonze.

    • Yo, are you the singer of Trap Them?? ^^^

      • Alas, no. A friend once told me he thought I looked like Matt Bellamy from ‘Muse’.

        We haven’t spoken much since…

    • “…offers silent acceptance, like all do towards each other on social networks…”

      I dare you to assert that you dislike The Dark Knight Rises or Man of Steel under a discussion about same.

      :)

    • I’m so glad that you recognized a lot of the themes that arose in the film, and I’m fairly certain that this is so full of layers that I’m not sure the average film goer will appreciate all of them. Indeed the dangers of the limitations that we ourselves impose on our relationships and connection in general is probably one of the more enduring aspects of the film. You might like this article here that comments on some of these issues:

      http://www.hiibye.com/14/post/2014/01/spike-jonzes-her-isnt-about-the-future-of-romance-or-servile-sex-bots.html

    • i liked the alien as comic relief but was suprised at the uneccesary awkward love scene(S!).it was this that turned me away.although as a social commentary HER may be worth an honorable mention. time will tell but i believe this will be forgotten quickly until,far down the road, it comes on h.b.o. and you say to yourself ” what the hell its been awhile”.

  2. Some parts bothered me. Like there were quirks in the movie that were fun and clever, but took me out of the moment. Like when we first interact with the alien child in the video game. It was funny, but out of place.

    I was also kinda bothered by the fact that this was looked at as normal in movie’s realm (albeit new). When he finally told someone that he was dating an OS, they all took it like it was no big deal. And the revel at the end further drove that point. Theo was a great character, but by the end of it, it seems most people in that world is like him. I guess you can say that’s social commentary, but in Spike Jonze fashion its almost too bold that you pass it off as another quirk of the movie.

    I think it was trying to be two different movies, a quirky romantic comedy, and a melodramatic look at the future. But it was never fully realized on either side. Still a good movie, the script was shaky but the directing, acting, and voice acting were all stupendous

    7/10

  3. I heard soo many great things from friends today about this movie. A friend even told me this morning that after seeing this movie, he has changed his opinion on Phoenix being Lex(after weeks of wanting Cranston). I think this comment from my friend alone is having me interested in seeing this movie.

  4. A Beautiful Review for a beautiful film!
    very moving, and I like the “non-standard” ending.
    some of the most intimate parts of the movie are the flashbacks with his ex-wife..
    Obviously “Her” seems to be a reference to Samantha,
    but by the end of the movie, I wasn’t so sure…
    I toyed with the idea that “Her” was really a reference to his ex-Wife..
    especially since most of what happened in the movie is a reflection on his relationship with “Her”
    and the concluding “love letter” to a friend as well.
    very intellectual
    [apart from the potty-mouth'ed alien]

    • Love & agree with your comment. Except I love the potty mouth alien :)

  5. OMG… I really REALLY want to see this movie!
    I thought it was released last year and I’ve already missed it… but now I’m excited that I don’t haha

  6. i need to see this….what keeps popping in my head is from The Big Bang Theory when Raj falls in love with Siri ha

  7. Sounds good, will definitely see it this weekend.

  8. On the whole, Her is a little long, but what I love is that it plays out like a real romance: first a discovery phase; then a phase where first one “person” is more vulnerable and hesitant and then the other; and ultimately, one out growing the other. I also like that the demise of Theodore’s marriage is more than just a beginning point for his character – the flashbacks of his relationship with his wife are extraordinarily touching and original. I wonder how Jonze came up with the scene of them fighting with orange street cones on their heads?

    But I don’t think he could have had a book made out of those letters, without getting permission from the clients and from the Beautiful Hand Written Letters Corporate Office :D

  9. Just saw this today, it was heartbreaking but great. Question for anyone who has seen this SPOILERS for those who haven’t; is Theodore writing a suicide note to his ex-wife at the end of the film?

    • I don’t think so, it’s unlikely considering he finds a new love in Amy, and they don’t jump at the end, they just sit. I think it’s just finally getting closure with his Ex-Wife.

      • @Cole Silver

        *
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        SPOILERS
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        I don’t think he “finds a new love in Amy”.
        *
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        SPOILERS
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        Remember he told Samantha they [He & Amy]
        “were together for a minute in college, but it just wasn’t right”

        their relationship is perfect the way it is, and just because she lays her head on his shoulder at the end,
        doesn’t mean they’re “hooking up”.

        I believe it’s just another scene showing how close they are as friends, confidants, etc..
        for me, the relationship between Amy & Theo is one of those rare ones that’s so “perfect” as is,
        and shouldn’t be complicated or “compromised” by amorous feelings, or physical intimacy.

        Notice how there are no feelings of jealousy as they discuss their relationships with their OS’s or Charles, or Catherine..
        Like you said… “they just sit”. He needed [wanted] her company at that moment because… he “finally got closure”

        • Completely agree, Amy was is a close friend, there was never a hint of interest from either of them through the whole movie. I think its a better ending with them not getting together anyway, thats so typical in most movies.

    • Not only was i wondering about suicide note, but when they went up on the roof, i thought they were doing a suicide pack and were both jumping … into the sunset, and as the movie fades to end, I’m wondering if they jump, stay, and if they stay with each other

    • No…or at least not in my opinion…rather, he has discovered the very Buddhist concept that all things – including love – is transitory and moves on. In the letter he writes to his ex-wife he is coming to terms with this fact. That is the beauty of the movie – that Samantha has taught him one of the most fundamental truths of human existence. Cheers.

  10. Loved this movie. 5/5 for me.
    Joaquin Phoenix proves aagain that he’s a great actor.
    On another note, anyone else think Inside Llewyn Davis deserves to be the Best Movie of 2013? I just can’t get over the fact than it wasn’t even considerd in many of the nominations. Don’t get me wrong: I loved Wolf of Wallstreet, American Hustle, Secret Life … and Gravity, I don’t know, watching Inside Llewyn Davis felt different. It felt like “sitting before a warm hearth on a winter night, reading a book, smoking a pipe” (Wheel of Time-esque) if you know what I mean.

    • I personally thought the order like this

      1. Walter Mitty
      2. Her
      3. Llewyn Davis

      and then all the other movies. I thought Rush was excellent as well.

  11. Amazing movie. Your review is spot on. Love Scarjo anyway and Joaquin has always been a true talent. It was a great premise with so much heart and just really a special movie, I’m being inarticulate for sure but I recommend this to everyone looking for non superheroes at least till Captain America. And what about an OS getting jealous? I loved it.

  12. E gad! I’m really feeling for Juaquin Phoenix! ‘Her’ is the worst movie I have seen for a very long time! Halfway through I was so bored I needed to leave. Except I had to see how they would create any substance out of the storyline. Which they did not. The story and the writing was so painstakingly dumb. I can’t believe ‘they’ think we are that stupid to buy this emotional bs. ugh waste of money. If the main character was at least crazy or psychotic or something other than a lovelorn schlap there may have been some believablity to it. shag me. I got so bored and I seriously wonder why all the great reviews about this movie? Why because the storyline is unique? or because we have come to a place where the vast majority of us have a singular relationship with our technology? There was no reason for the main character to fall in love with his OS. and the OS character was plain and simple and lacked character. The writer wants you all to buy into this storyline and yet hmmm… it’s not out there enough, or Theodore does not have the real quirk to fall for it, and Samantha is a bore playing into the idea of a bland people-pleasing female. Please someone else with a brain and an idea that a movie should move you to look at life with new eyes, it should tell a story with depth and a sense of realism that makes us look at life with new intelligence. This was a game, and I’m sorry you got sucked into it Juaquin – you deserve better!! 0/10

    • ^^Translation^^

      no lens flares, explosions, fart jokes and did not feature Adam Sandler.

      (rolls eyes)

    • Tot agree! I dnt get it 0_o

  13. This movie is horrible – the worst movie I have seen in 15 years. Not only did I want to shoot myself after 30 minutes – I couldn’t figure out why the main character didn’t just shoot himself and get his miserable life over. You do not need to watch the movie – the visuals provide NOTHING to the movie’s substance – maybe that is because there is no substance in the movi anywhere. I hoped for some decent social commentary but even that escaped the director and writer. What the movie is really about is the emptiness of computerized communications – but we don’t have to watch the emptiness for 2 hours to get that point – showing a little of the joy of actual humanity would be a better approach. This movie will be a box office bomb – guaranteed.

  14. I thought this movie was superb. I understand why people won’t like it but if you want to see something a little different with some actual substance then I highly reccommend it.

  15. I can’t belive I read the whole article. I was visualizing the whole movie in front of my eyes. Very well reviewed. :)

  16. 5/5 this movie was incredible. one of the best films ive seen in years. Wolf was hands down my favorite of the past year until i saw this. The whole world he created was so believable and close. Spectacular.

  17. Her should get the Oscar for most boring. I am astounded at all the great comments I’m seeing here and elsewhere. I too wanted to leave 30mins in, but suffered throughout it, except literally for a quick power nap somewhere in the middle – which I have NEVER done before – and waking up fully annoyed that there was still an hour to go. An hour that felt like a half a day. The near future felt like the seventies to me, especially with the high waisted pants all the men were wearing and the main character’s moustache – even the extras in this movie were absolutely terrible, and they did nothing much except appear to be talking to themselves. No, I am a not a big explosion kind of guy, don’t really like car chases, hate Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler and the like, I love movies about technology, slightly futuristic, I love intellect and good writing, I love period pieces, so I’m not all about Hollywood. But this was complete and utter yawn factor and it blows my mind, and really has me questioning the motives of the Academy, that it should be nominated in any category. The only thing that made me perk up a little, even if it was out of place, was the potty mouthed character in the video game; yes, I thought when I saw that, this will lead into some more interaction with futuristic technology that would be relevant to the storyline in a more sophisticated way. Nope! Only watch this if you enjoy listening to someone talk on the phone for a couple of painstaking hours.

  18. I wanna see this….Joaquin never fails to disappoint me I love him as an actor.

  19. Saw this Saturday after reading so many good reviews. I agree with other’s comments about it trying to be 2 films at once. I think the comedy element would have been better if written differently, but was well welcome due to the overall melancholy mood. Joaquin and Scarlett were superb. I did expect it to be better but at the same time cannot stop thinking about it. The score fit perfectly and the beach scene was my definitely favorite. The message is obvious.
    Just see it!

  20. This was a very peculiar film, and incited the most curious of movie viewers. There is a difference between how the movie was made and why it was made. The linear and chronological nature of the film are very well orchestrated. Arcade Fire does a superb job of writing the musical score. The, almost, minimalist emotional impressions throughout the film connect us to the existential angst of Theodore. We feel lonely, and we feel sad. We feel loved and we feel lost. What made this film unique, however, was the ontological presuppositions towards Samantha. At first, we see her as nothing more than a voice on a computer. Throughout the film, though, her character is developed to more than an answering machine. Samantha is developed to become relatable. Just as we empathize with Theodore, we begin to empathize with Samantha. We begin, oddly, placing her in the category that so vaguely defines what it means to be human. We are unsure of whether or not she belongs there, and can’t help but to feel uncertain about our ethical convictions over Theodore’s relationship with Samantha. Our decision and interpretation of Samantha depends largely on something we believed before we began the film. Simply, “What does it mean to be human?” If being human can, indeed, boil down to a complex arrangement of algorithms and syntax, then Samantha should feel very human to us. If being human, however, is defined by metaphysical uniqueness as well as physical attribute and chemical processes then Samantha’s desire to be viewed as human as you and I will come as an awkward surprise. Although I believe the film implies the first, it is our presupposition which inevitably determines our understanding and acceptability of Samantha.

  21. Hello, i really liked the movie. It has some great ideas in it. Like Minority report it gives you a credible possible vision of the future. Web 5.0 will all be faling in love with os. But one thing i would like to share in this fórum is the ending (SPOILER). I really think they did commit suicide. Why would he write the letter to his wife and in the way he did? And why go to the roof right after that. I think is pretty obviously that is a goodbye letter. I would really like your opinion on this since only one of the comments mentioned suicide. Thanx

    • ==== SPOILERS ====== I truly think they committed suicide at the end as well. The way he wrote his letter to his ex-wife, Katharine, was so conclusive and like he was saying goodbye (although never actually written). Then the way he walks to the top of the tower with Amy who just lost her friend as well means alot. Amy, in previous scenes, was talking about how life is cycling and nothing lasts forever . . . I dont know that just seemed very melancholy for her to say. She also said that she didn’t care about much of anything anymore and that she cared only about her os, and at the end when her os left maybe she had nothing else to make her happy and to make her have feelings at all?… So back to when they were walking up to the top of the building together (up the stairs at the edge to be exact), I believe it was purposely windy to exaggerate how high they were, however subtly it was (this is shown in most suicide scenes in movies). Then they showed him alone, being the only thing in focus showing singularity and deep emotion which might not be a concluding factor in my belief of their suicide, but just wanted to add that. Lastly when the credits roll and “Samantha’s Song” starts playing, you can hear distant sirens which definitely leads me, and apparently some others, to believe that they committed suicide. Whichever way it goes I velieve it doesn’t entirely matter and my opinion is that the director probably thought very hard about wether they should jump at the end or not, and I think he left it very open to the public to decide because in reality it doesn’t matter. The movie’s purpose was to touch on aspects of love to which, love is a constantly changing thing and once taken to far may become static, like seen in most marriages today, so retrospectively it is a side-note wether they jump or not because the purpose of the movie was made and completed and if it showed their suicide, they focus would be brought the artificially generated characters of Theodore and Amy, who are just plot characters. It would’ve taken the mindset away from the larger purpose of the movie. So in conclusion I believe they did commit suicide at the end, but it doesn’t matter because the movie is about the concept of love, life, and emotional connection as a whole…not about a single person.

      • Dylan, I am greatly impressed by your comments, you are very perceptive and I agree with all your points – you hit the nail on the head about the director’s intent of the film and why it ends as it does. I’m glad I watched this film, it ranks among the very top for me.

      • I disagree about them committing suicide. The very last two things you hear as the scene fades out are two breaths…one of his, and one of hers. It’s a reference back to the scene where he asks Samantha why she makes a breathing sound when she’s not really alive and doesn’t need to breathe. Both Theodore and Amy look at each other, she puts her head on his shoulder, and they breathe, a reminder to each other that they are alive and human.

  22. My daughter and I just saw this movie tonight and we loved it. Joaquin is an excellent as the main character and it was so thoughtfully done. I agree with the comment that they committed suicide. They were both so sad and I recall Sam telling Ted that he should “find” her again someday (my daughter does not remember this–so I may be hallucinating). I may have read too much into it–but that is the way I perceived the ending. Either way, this is a movie that I will be unforgettable to me–and I really like that a movie has the power to do this.

  23. Obvious movie intentions are obvious. Yeah, technology is alienating, yeah, people can’t handle loneliness, yeah, life is sad, but you know what? I rather be fracking alone that pretend to be something I’m not and make compromises just to have a girlfriend. I have friends, and I can masturbate. I don’t need to date. Frack society.

  24. Really loved this film and want to see it over again. We both could see how someone may ‘fall in love’ with a sexy sounding Siri, especially if it started interacting. It had my mind spinning like ‘Being John Malkovich’, and left us thinking abd saying ‘wow’.
    I know friends who said it was dull and slow moving, but we totally engaged and gave this 5/5. If the Academy get the quirkiness of the screenplay – we could get a surprise here

  25. I thought the movie was beautifully done. Much like watching a brilliant Miyasaki anime film, one must simply be open to the story and not be critical of or distracted by a setting or format that is not typical or presently realistic. With an open mind, the actors and storyteller quickly pull you inside their believable story. We’ve all seen loneliness and desperation, if not in ourselves, in others, so I found it quite easy to believe this type of scenario could take place and felt heartbroken for all involved. To reveal vulnerability on such a deep level in ALL of the characters was courageous and brilliant in the acting and in the story itself. Well done…we all are entitled to an opinion, but I wouldn’t be deterred by naysayers.

  26. Worst movie I’ve ever seen in my life, together with Pompeii. I wanted to get out of the cinema since the first hour.

  27. This is a confounding film to rate but I’m rating on the positive side for the overall feeling I have through it and its end. My biggest problem is with its technical plausibility. Theodore acquires a retail version of newly introduced (meaning v1.0) OS1, an artificially intelligent computer operating system. Fine so far. However, the film’s depiction of OS1 is super-hyper-idealized, it’s flawless, something that shouldn’t be attainable until like version 50 and then only after dozens of premium add-ons and upgrades. But if the director wants to go this way then that’s his prerogative, but plausibility is important and can’t be magically waved off. As Theodore’s relationship with “Samantha” evolves you can see scene by scene that they touch upon the highs and lows of normal, human relationships. It has an episodic series feel to it, like a short-run tv show that Netflix or Hulu would do. If you “get into” the movie then you may need tissues at the end, but again you have to shut off the “what the @#$?” side of your brain because how can a retail version of an operating system evolve to do what Samantha does at the end?! There’s all manner of warranty and lawsuit claims that come from that. Again, setting all that aside, it was interesting and touching, not a waste of time, but I’d like to see a story with a more realistic, flawed (comically, dramatically, or both) AI operating system.

  28. One theme I have not seen discussed is the fact that he was doing the same thing as Samatha in his line of work i.e. he took info given to him and created an emotional response from it (the letters he wrote) which to his co workers and others seemed real and emotional but to him it was just work. This is emphasised when he is installing the OS and his shirt is exactly the same shade of orange/red indicating they are essentially one and the same.