Her Review

Her is a 2013 romantic sci-fi written, produced and directed by Spike Jonze. Though the film hasn't been widely recognized, it nevertheless earned an Academy Award for best original screenplay.

The story takes place in a vaguely futuristic America and follows Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), an emotionally closed off man looking for companionship. He finds his answer in Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), an artificial intelligence designed to adapt to Theodore's personality and wants. Their relationship grows and evolves in all the ways you'd expect and at the same time in ways you wouldn't expect...

The premise for this film is admittedly extremely weird; a man falls in love with a computer. I think that might've been the reason people weren't very interested in seeing it. However, the way it's presented and paced you actually buy the relationship between them. That's mostly because the characters are so likable. Theodore is very sympathetic because he's just a lonely guy looking for companionship, something everybody can relate to on some scale. Samantha is very likable because she starts out as this funny, easy going person, but then goes on to something greater and more fleshed out. The dynamics of their relationship are great and best experienced firsthand, so I won't give too much information.

However, I think there's a sly genius to the film that isn't explicitly stated. I believe that it's making a statement about technology replacing actual relationships by taking it to its logical extreme; the technology is now one of the participants in the relationship. The stance of the film is made subtly clear by the end of the film which, again, I won't spoil for you. It's a really ingenious way of making social commentary and I'm surprised it took somebody this long to pull it off. I don't think we'll ever get a movie about human's relationship with technology this good or this subtle ever again.

The movie has yet another layer of text to spread on the previously mentioned subtext: it's an allegory for romance. It uses it's weird premise to tell a story about relationships; their ups and downs, the different feelings you have in each stage, etc. It's very interesting and gives the movie more purpose beyond, "Hey, here's a weird idea and now watch me make you care about it."

Even though the story is well-paced and smartly keeps the focus on our two strange leads I felt like I could've used a bit more world building. The world feels oddly empty for a society where AI has been invented. How many AI's are given out to the public? Who's making them? Do they have monthly surveys for the people they gave them out to so that they can track the evolution of a not entirely tested product? How well known is the letter writing company that Theodore works for? Why is everybody so excepting of people dating AIs? Even though these aren't a big part of the story, they're still questions I'd've liked answered.

The screenplay deserved that Oscar because it's fantastic. It's incredibly funny and witty, but also heart-wrenching and gut-punching when it wants to be. The biggest compliment I can give it is that it drew me in to Theodore's emotions. While he was growing to like Samantha so was I. When he was beginning to love Samantha I understood. That's an impressive feet to pull off, especially when you manage to pull in a guy who's watched so many movies he should be immune to this kind of manipulation, or at least see it coming a mile away.

The most noticeable thing about this film is the bright color scheme. There're a lot of soft pinks and reds that are very pretty to look at, but also help tell the story. Theodore's workspace is very bright and colorful, which makes sense because it's a place where he writes heartwarming, emotional letters to people. However, when he goes outside (before he gets Samantha) everything is dark, gloomy and very grey. When he gets Samantha, however, everything begins to get bright and happy again. I suppose I'm talking more about lighting at this point than color, but it works so well with the color to deliver the tone. There's some great symbolism that they do with the sun at the end of the film which I won't go into, but is pretty cool now that I think on it.

The set design is interesting in that it's just futuristic enough without seeming alien. The environments are very fancy and the technology is clearly much more advanced than what we have now, but it's not like Star Trek where it'd take us a couple hundred years to catch up; they don't have flying cars or spaceships or anything like that. They just have really advanced AI and that's about it. It helped with the immersion and believability of the story.

The cinematography is ok. Pretty standard in my opinion. However, there are these times when the two leads are talking and suddenly it'll cut to a shot of somebody from Theodore's point of view. I don't know why they did this or what it adds to the film, so it's kind of distracting for me.

Something they did really well was the flashbacks. Whenever Theodore is thinking about something that happened in the past it shows the image of what happened but keeps the audio of what's going on around him while he's thinking about it. I love this because that's how real life daydreaming works; even though you're thinking about something else you can still hear what's going on around you. I appreciated that they made it realistic.

The acting from Joaquin Phoenix is great, being able to perfectly portray the shy, sad Theodore, but the real standout for me is Scarlett Johansson. I've never been particularly fond of this woman as an actor, but she gives a really good performance here, which is impressive since all she has to act with is her voice. I completely believe that Samantha is alive and has emotions just through Johansson's delivery. I was blown away.

Summary: Her is a minor miracle in that it should've sucked, but against all the odds didn't. This is a sweet, if admittedly weird, love story with delightful characters and genius allegory. I don't mind calling it now and saying that this film will be as relevant 20 years from now as it is today.



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