Review: Her / Cert: TBC / Director: Spike Jonze / Screenplay: Spike Jonze / Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson / Release Date: Out Now
Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) is a sensitive, lonely man in the midst of divorce proceedings. He lives in a futuristic Los Angeles (parts of the movie were filmed in Shanghai) and one day falls head over heels with his computer’s operating system, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).
The title of Spike Jonze’s excellent fourth feature refers not only to ‘Samantha’, but also Catherine (Rooney Mara), the soon-to-be ex-wife who haunts Theo’s daily thoughts. The viewer is led to initially perceive Catherine as a woman that cruelly broke her husband’s heart into a thousand pieces. Slowly, however, we come to realise this very real but simultaneously romanticised heartache masks a conservative and emotionally repressed personality. There’s a difference between being old-school and being recalcitrant. The retro 1950s middle-class pop outfits signify this, too. A scene in which Theo and Catherine share lunch – meeting up to finalise their separation – is the film’s most revealing moment, as we get to hear Catherine’s side of things, as well as her own issues, troubled personal history and Theo’s overly idealistic view of love and cohabitation. He wants the rosy glow of love to last and to be unencumbered by human complications and miseries.
Jonze’s application of sci-fi iconography and tropes is minimalist and playful. The twinkling neon lights of the city, the gigantic buildings and swathes of hazy golden fog appear like a sunnier vision of L.A. as depicted in Blade Runner. Mostly, Sponze has fun imagining what the future of home entertainment technology holds. Mobile phones become little transmitters in our ears hooked up to a small device carried in our shirt or trouser pockets and are voice-activated. Video game consoles project in massive 3D – covering entire rooms to create a virtual gaming cube/world, where Theo can work his way around some endless maze and meet various foul-mouthed online gamers and their avatars. The games are controlled by hand movements reacting to sensors. Computer operating systems not only have winning personalities, but can fall in love and grow ever more sophisticated in their consciousness.
Johansson has created a compelling and believable character: all vulnerability, girl-next-door charm and often quite simply adorable. Who wouldn’t fall for ‘Samantha’? Neither is the couple’s relationship unique: all across the world, people are getting entangled in RAMances with their hard drives. And no, we don’t see Theo humping his computer tower. Jonze, very coyly, even chastely, fades to black as the loved up duo ‘get it on’.
Scored by Arcade Fire, brilliantly directed by Jonze and with top performances from the cast, including a kooky turn by Amy Adams as Theo’s college buddy and neighbour, Her is a very touching sci-fi drama with bytes of melancholia running throughout its circuitry.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10