Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Spike Jonze
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johnansson
Spike Jonze’s latest melancholy piece, “Her,” depicts love and loneliness in a technology-drowned future, sans science fiction. Joaquin Phoenix plays a man (Theodore) lost in the swarms of the city and still reeling from his divorce, who seeks companionship from a highly advanced OS. The entire film is incredibly emotionally driven, and a little too sob-story, but remains authentic and believable throughout. Though Theodore’s character borders on self-pitying at times and spends half of the film wallowing, we can’t help getting lost in his irresistibly isolated world. And when he is finally pulled out of his sorrow by Samantha, his intelligent OS (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), we breathe a sigh of relief, though not for long.
The budding romance between Theo and Samantha may seem unreal at first, but their relationship quickly escalates into a genuine love affair. There is only one problem: Theo is a human and Samantha is, well, a robot. The obvious unease of their scenario is translated onscreen in both in Theo’s embarrassment of the situation and in a couple of rather uncomfortable sex scenes– one in which a surrogate sex partner attempts to take the place of Samantha. Sure, Spike Jonze does not set out to create a traditional love story and he is not afraid to make his audience uncomfortable. He made that clear in “Being John Malkovich.” But it would have been nice for some aspects to be left up to the viewer’s imagination.
In “Her”, this blatancy goes hand-in-hand with the intimate nature of the film. It feels as if a door has been left open ajar and the audience is told to sit down, be quiet, and observe. The mood is private and sentimental; gorgeous cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema captures the city in pale light and plays with warm accenting colors. Background-setting wide shots in public and dreamy close ups in private contrast beautifully, though our eyes are always kept on Theodore.
Scarlett Johansson’s sexy, soothing voice along with the isolating city life and beautiful cinematography are all reminiscent of “Lost in Translation,” and by the end of both films, the characters experience a revival of life. That is not to say that the films are in any way mirror images of each other, but both question what it truly means to love and how desperate we are for human (or, in this case, quasi-human) connections. “Her” is a testament to love in all of its bizarre and complicated forms.