Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)
In a near future, a man has a hard time dealing with his divorce. He is mopey and lonely. He gets an operating system with a female voice and slowly enters in a relationship with her.
Theodore Twombly played by Joaquin Phoenix reminds us why he is the most talented actors of his generation despite the fact that he is probably an alien to all of us. Centered on Twombly and his evolving relationship with his OS that calls itself Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) the movie Her is a tour de force by its writer and director Spike Jonze. To shot an entire film on such a particular idea that today doesn’t seem that quirky with everybody talking alone with their smart phones and having relationships by texting, emailing, sharing, linking on their walls isn’t so much of science-fiction but just as a science of our future.
Jonze’s story is not centered on an idea to make us wonder at how our world evolves with technology, I guess a bit. But it is more on the fact that as much as a machine can learn to feel, live, and love it will always have a gap between a man and his machine. It is also well illustrated how technology is condemned to be ahead of its creator and be limited by its infinity of possibilities while humans have real analog feelings and needs. Even a system that learns this is too logic and has to constantly evolve in an exponential way.
Joaquin Phoenix as aforementioned gives one of the best performances from a leading man with many levels of sensibility with this character of loneliness and introverted feelings. Writing personal letters for people in this service that seems like a strange oddity in this quirky futuristic world blending technology but also many natural elements that clash with each other just like our world. There’s a sense of this bright satured mix of extremes of future but also old things like this romantic character looking for a deep meaningful relationship in this world that looks like a commercial break for smart phones or an animation feature. Her is really about contrasts and from the relationship to the costumes, sets, and settings.
Paired with Phoenix is the voice of Samantha by Scarlett Johansson that replaced actress Samantha Morton. Her performance transcends simple words read in a microphone. She inhabits the film as a total character perhaps more complex and almost human in her presence. Her tone, expressions and entire performance is outstanding and dubbing a cartoon or an animated feature is something that the actor can work with the expressions and situations but she had to act with only the sight of Phoenix on the screen.
Visually it is an interesting film that feels kitsch with a retro vibe of futuristic world taken from the reflection of commercials and how the world is marketed for the younger generation. It would be interesting to have some hints on the inspiration for the sets and costumes that felt simple but also highly stylized.
Spike Jonze’s Her feels like a whole and it is probably one of the best films of 2013. It felt right in my personal kind of movies that blends a solid script, amazing acting, and great directing. It is indeed particular and few films have exploited those theme with such an honest vision but it felt natural and it is executed by an outstanding writer/director.