There is no denying that the concept is weird. A man falling in love with his operating system, it is odd. But there’s something human about it and about Samantha. This humanity that is brought to a machine makes Her something unique and special, something that many would interpret as a Kaufman script, Spike Jonze turns this in all his own and with it, turns in his best work to date and one of my favorite films of the year.
Her follows Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely man dealing with a divorce from the love of his life, Catherine (Rooney Mara). He installs a new operating system, one that is supposed to understand humans more and grow their personalities along the way. Theodore is given Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) who immediately warms his heart with her playful laugh and curiosity for what is around him.
Maybe it is the award worthy voice work by Johansson or the fact that her character is so perfect for Theodore but you as the audience instantly fall in love with her with him. She gets him. She wants sprawling conversations about Theo and his life and is always wanting to better him or challenge him in a way to help his life. Theo begins to fall in love with her (and she with him) and it is not a concept that we can’t buy. This relationship that the two have started is genuine and one that anyone would want to continue further.
But this film is much more than “that movie where the guy falls in love with his computer,” it is about connecting with people and the interest of humans to see their world through each others eyes. These are what Jonze dives into through these characters, the idea that all we want to do is reach out with someone but maybe it is a little scary or daunting. An example of this is when Theo tries to go on a blind date (played by Olivia Wilde) and after having a lot of fun and enjoying the evening, struggles to meet her requirements for a relationship which leads to her calling him “creepy” and Theo falling back to where he was before.
Phoenix hits the notes he has to as Theodore perfectly. You feel for this character throughout. He is a tough character but one you can care for even with his mishaps because you know in the end, he just wants to be happy. His facial expressions and reactions create a lot of the more comical moments in a film that can come across as strange at times. In the more humorous moments at the film’s beginning, Theo looks for some sort of companionship through sexual encounters over the phone and raunchy video games. Phoenix is able to keep these scenes stable through his subtle humor with his expressions towards the events.
Her can be a heavy film but plays very lightly. It addresses so much about connection in the modern world that it is unlike anything I have seen. It feels ground breaking in the realm of romance films that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or the Before trilogy had in that it examines love outside of the concept of just boy meets girl but dives into the issues that plague relationships and doesn’t sugar coat the amount of work that they.
In this regard, it made it one of the best films of the year based solely on the risks it took. I can’t think of many other films that took a leap like this in a genre that is so fixated on one concept and never strays from the path. Samantha and Theodore’s relationship is rich and filled with moments that are sad and happy but in the end, it is a relationship that is incredibly important in the scheme of romance films moving forward, because they are real.