The following is a short updated review (2019) of Spike Jonze’s Her (2013).
Written and directed by Spike Jonze, Her is a science-fiction love story set in a ‘futuristic’ American city. The film follows Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix) — a writer of other people’s personal letters — who is separated from his wife (played by Rooney Mara).
Theodore is unresponsive to his wife and her divorce lawyer. Theodore is also still very much in love with his wife, and he isn’t ready to move on. Like is to be expected in a world dominated by the black mirrors of our devices, Theodore has become quite lonely, and he has difficulties starting over again. But following something of a life-changing experience, he starts to open up to his friends Paul and Amy (played by Chris Pratt and Amy Adams, respectively). Theodore has fallen in love with his new operating system, which is managed by an artificial intelligence (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). That’s everything I’ll say about the plot, and, even though, yes, this may sound loony, the film actually works beautifully.
The Oscar-winning script is really witty and pleasant, and although there is one scene that seems almost ripped out of a more traditional romantic comedy, the funny dialogue never distracts you from the film. Though I will say that the aforementioned scene definitely makes it pretty obvious that the dialogue was written by a former Jackass-producer. But the comedy is definitely not the main selling point of the film. Yes, Her is a very funny film, and it is a sometimes quite beautiful love story. But I think of it as more of a film about accepting change and, in length, growing as a person, as you start to appreciate not just what is real and valuable, but also that you cannot control those you love.
I think her voice performance as the A.I. might be Scarlett Johansson’s most memorable performance. That isn’t meant to be an insult. Not at all. I simply think she did an amazing job through just a vocal performance. The film simply wouldn’t work if it weren’t for Johansson’s ability to make you believe in a potentially puzzling relationship. Though his character may not be entirely original, I think Joaquin Phoenix is equally great. There is a tendency to focus mostly on an actor’s most electrifying and energetic performances, but his vulnerable performance in Her stands toe-to-toe with the absolute best performances in the rest of his impressive filmography. I would also add that I think Rooney Mara and Chris Pratt both do a lot with minor roles and that Amy Adams is unrecognizable but terrific here as well.
I recognize that this isn’t a movie for everybody. This may not be for the masses. It isn’t enough of a romantic-comedy for that target audience, and it isn’t a traditional science-fiction film. But I think it is a truly special film. Her is a memorable and thought-provoking science fiction masterpiece. It is, in my mind, one of the absolute best films of the 2010s. I think about it often, and, without fail, it moves me every time I watch it.
10 out of 10
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.