Director/Screenwriter Spike Jones is a master at adding multiple dimensions to what we always know exists. It’s been evident in his prior films, “Adaptation,” “Where The Wild Things Are,” (which I did not care for personally), and most especially in “Being John Malkovich.” He plants the seeds of fantasy in what we can normally touch, hear and see. Then his elements of fantasy receive a supportive crutch from what his viewers have always been familiar with.
“her” is his latest masterwork; a film that takes place in the not too distant future that expounds on our current digital age. If we can already talk to “Siri” or “Alexa” and trick–umm, excuse me, “her” (I mean “Siri”) into making sophomoric dirty jokes, then of course we are bound to approach the stage where we can literally, truly fall in love with her and then she can reciprocate.
With her raspy yet silky vocals, Scarlett Johansson is inspired casting as the voice of “Samantha.” Had she actually had a physical presence in the film I would have totally fallen for her affections. The film hinges on the performance of Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore. If we can’t believe that he loves “Samantha” more than he loves himself (a surefire test of true love as far I’m concerned) then “her” falls apart. Phoenix passes abundantly. He deserved his Oscar nomination.
From the start, you become very accustomed to the banter between Theodore and his electronic device voiced by “Samantha.” Both have personal feelings. Both have personal longings (more especially “Samantha” the computer, of all things!!!).
Spike Jonze explores all the diameters and dimensions of a loving relationship. The ups, downs, and in betweens. What’s different is how all of these layers of a relationship are received in this currently fictional (bound to come true, one day) dynamic of a relationship. Theodore and “Samantha” are affectionate. They argue, they laugh, they even make love. Watch the movie to understand that last point. It happens, and it is perfectly executed with the residual effects of their lovemaking bringing the film into its next act brilliantly.
Jones won the Oscar for original screenplay simply for how innovative this picture is. I’m not sure it’s the most exciting two hours of film, however. Personally, I think other films in this category back in 2013 had sharper and more interesting scripts. “her” is practically all talk and when it ended, I was ready for it to be over, and it concluded as I expected.
Still, Jones is fortunate that his cast (Johannsson, Phoenix, Amy Adams and Rooney Mara and Chris Pratt) trusts him. If they hadn’t, this movie would have lost its magic by probably how absurd this script must have originally been perceived on paper. Well done work by all involved but credit has to begin with Jones, the screenwriter.