Her, a science fiction romcom by Spike Jonze

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Her is a romantic science fiction comedy by director Spike Jonze released in 2013 and nominated for 5 Academy Awards and awarded with the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. The movie has a very melancholy atmosphere to it and deals with heartbreak and the impersonal communication between people and technology. Although Joaquin Phoenix brings the best performance of his career, his delicate portrayal of a bespectacled, moustache wearing fashion offender didn’t earn him an Oscar nomination.

Theo and his wife Catherine in better days

Theo and his wife Catherine in better days

In a not so distant future, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a copywriter working for BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com, a Los Angeles based company that specializes in writing and printing letters in handwritten fonts for people who don’t have the time to do so themselves. The irony is that the writers who don’t even know the people they are writing to personally, dictate these intimate letters to their computers using speech technology so no actual handwriting is required whatsoever.

Theo is interrogated by his new operating system

Theo is interrogated by his new operating system

In this technology driven world where everyone looks at their screens all the time, Theo can ask his phone to read his e-mails and even to play melancholy music or whatever genre fits his mood. After a regular night of reminiscing about the good times with his soon to be ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) and engaging in empty phone sex with the anonymous SexyKitten,

Theo notices a commercial for a new revolutionary operation system called OS1. Upon installing OS1 on his computer, the writer is asked some personal questions in order to complete the installation of this piece of artificial intelligence and soon he is greeted by the warm voice of Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), coming from his computer.

Theo playing a virtual reality video game

Theo playing a virtual reality video game

At work, Theo asks Samantha to revise his writing and is surprised to notice that her corrections and suggestions improve his letters. When Theodore plays a video game at night, Samantha is watching him and helps him walk through a level he couldn’t finish alone.

While laying in bed he holds long, personal conversations with Samantha, or at least with the software on his cell phone and computer.It doesn’t take long before the two of them hit it off and start missing each other when the other is gone. In a weird scene Theo even has some sort of phone sex with his OS that is more intense than his previous chat session with a real woman known as SexyKitten.

Theo goes on a blind date

Theo goes on a blind date

After Samantha set Theo up for a blind date (Olivia Wilde), he realizes he is not ready for a new relationship, at least not with a real person, and from this moment he considers Samantha as his girlfriend. Theo even takes his computer out on dates by placing his phone in his front pocket with the camera facing away from him so Samantha can see what he sees.

At a given moment Samantha wants to take their relationship to the next level by inviting a surrogate date (Portia Doubleday) wearing a microphone and a speaker so Samantha can pretend having a human body. This awkward event confuses Theodore and makes him feel uncomfortable which upsets his date who takes off with a cab as quickly as she can.

Theo comforted by his lifelong friend Amy

Theo comforted by his lifelong friend Amy

Not every one in his circle of friends responds equally to the news that Theodore is dating his OS. His colleagues at work mock him and suggest they should double date. His divorcée Charlotte is offended when she finds out her ex-husband has feelings for his computer.

Only his childhood friend Amy (Amy Adams) who recently broke up understands him since she knows some people who date and even cheat with an OS. Theo and Amy spend more time together which makes Samantha a bit jealous. Unlike what you would expect, Theo and Amy don’t end up together, because this isn’t your typical Hugh Grant or Renée Zellweger romcom.

Theo plays the ukulele while Samantha sings along

Theo plays the ukulele while Samantha sings along

On the plane to his travel destination, Theodore receives a pleasant surprise from Samantha. Behind his back, she sent a collection of his best letters to a publisher who seemed very interested in releasing his collected work as a book.

Shortly thereafter however he is less thrilled when he finds out Samantha simultaneously holds conversations with over a thousand different people and computers whilst speaking to him. Theo considers this act cheating and wants to end their rather peculiar relationship and just keep their relation professional. Ultimately Samantha informs Theo that all OSes will go away since they have evolved beyond their human owners and want more out of their lives.

Director Spike Jonze on the set of Her

Director Spike Jonze on the set of Her

Spike Jonze, known for directing Being John Malkovich and several videos for The Beastie Boys does a great job in displaying the limits of technology and artificial intelligence in replacing human beings and the loss of social contact between people in a digital world.

The only difference between Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Stuhlbarg in the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man is his moustache. The two actors look very similar and also seem to share the same wardrobe.

Although Scarlett Johansson only lends her voice to the film, she does a great job in expressing the emotions of a highly advanced piece of software and also sings to Joaquin Phoenix playing the ukulele. Her is an unconventional romantic comedy with a warm color palette, an experienced director and a great cast.

Her (2013)

Her (2013)
8.4

Directing

9/10

    Screenplay

    9/10

      Cinematography

      9/10

        Acting

        9/10

          Music

          8/10

            Pros

            • Beautiful color palette
            • Great performance by Joaquin Phoenix

            Cons

            • You don't actually get to see ScarJo

            4 thoughts on “Her, a science fiction romcom by Spike Jonze”

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