Genre: Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi
Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Spike Jonze
Music: Arcade Fire
Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema
Laura Kai Chen
Spike Jonez’s fourth director feature, after BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (1999), ADAPTATION. (2002), WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (2009), is his first where himself is credited as both the director and the sole writer. HER is situated in L.A. in the near future (in fact some scenes are shot in Shanghai), Theodore (Phoenix), is a writer for the beautifulhandwrittenletters.com, a melancholic and lonely guy who has just undergone a breakup with his ex-wife Catherine (Mara). Out of despondency, he purchases a state-of-the-art Operation System with intellectual consciousness whose self-coined name is Samantha (voiced by a phenomenal Johansson), which henceforth embarks an authentic romance between those two, on a trajectory as any human does with another human.
One challenging and titillating aspect is that the simulation of a sex act contributes as an imperative obstacle in the way, yet Jonez underscores a requisite scenario that virtual sex activity is virtually a widespread habit in the beginning when Theodore hooks up with his cyber sex-mate SexyKitten (an amusing voice-cameo by Wiig) with a vicarious thrust from the racy pregnant photos of a celebrity, which paves the way for the consequent sex experience between him and the entity-devoid Samantha; furthermore, when the idea of a surrogate lover pops up, it hits the home run to pinpoint the unmountable discrepancy between human and machine, a line which is successfully blurred by the advancement in technology and the fickle intricacy of a human mind.
Unobtrusively, the film spearheads into another tricky area, for the computer-generated persona, monogamy is an impossible commitment, Samantha chooses her name by reading a book with all names in less than one second, artificial intelligence and human beings are not in the same grade when capacity is taking into account. So the impending ending seems predestined, however I would prefer a systematic upgrading which obliterates the data to an unexplained disappearance, but in a way it also shows that Jonez is a resolute romantic, brings enough hope in the final scenes.
Joaquin Phoenix comes up with a 180 degree turn from his Oscar-nominated performance in THE MASTER (2012), as an introvert yet sensitive guy, enveloped with a conceptually warm surrounding and a larger-than-life art production while his inside is abysmally lonesome, he bespeaks for anyone who is bogged down by a real relationship and emits unremitting warmth and authenticity with his downplayed closeness. Scarlett Johansson, what a vivid voice performance, husky yet enigmatically demonstrative to impersonate a soul’s verisimilitude. Amy Adams, Phoenix’s THE MASTER co-star, brings another transformative presence here, she is naturalistically bubbly and spontaneous notwithstanding, retreats to a more muted niche as the best friend one would ever hanker for, a confidant and possibly the ultimate match for a tender person like Theodore.
HER is a well-crafted indie fare dares to tackle a topical issue with intrepid honesty and rational creativity, its road-to-Oscar expedition (4 nominations including BEST PICTURE and 1 win for BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY) has proved to be one of the wow factor in a fiercely competitive year and a career high point for the multi-talented Mr. Jonez.