By Sarah Choate
Director Spike Jonze’s latest film, “Her,” starring Joaquin Phoenix, is unequivocally and absolutely the best movie I have seen in the past year. This film combines masterful dialogue and subtle, futuristic vision to tell this intriguing, unsettling story.
Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) is your typical existentialist divorcee living alone in a big city.
Since the disintegration of his marriage, Twombly has found himself with little human contact outside of his workplace where he writes heartfelt, sentimental letters for his customer’s loved ones.
After work, Twombly trudges home through streets and subways strung with distracted people — everyone wears an earpiece and interacts with his or her phone, Twombly included. When he arrives home he finds company in interactive video games. Besides the occasional conversation with his long-time friend, Amy, Twombly is on his own.
“Her” is set in what appears to be the near future. This film seamlessly integrates the envisioned futuristic technology into the landscape of the story. Though there are advanced computer systems and smart phones, interactive/touch projector screens and other hypermodern forms of technology, none of it is flashy or out of place. All of the devices used are extremely believable as technology that could soon be developed.
From the new technology represented in the film comes the OS1 — an individualized computer operating system that quickly develops personality. At first, this sounds creepy, but as Twombly builds a relationship with an OS named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), the audience sees how easily someone could fall for such an intelligent entity.
Because any film centered on a romantic relationship with a piece of technology is intrinsically odd and unpalatable, “Her” would have likely been a trainwreck if it were not for the impeccable dialogue. The writing brings Scarlett Johansson’s voice acting to life. The dialogue is so raw and real that the audience believes in and roots for Twombly and Samantha’s relationship.
The dialogue not only keeps the conversation between Twombly and Samantha going, but it also provides a platform to pose some of the most important questions of modern life. As
Twombly wrestles with his concept of self, the nature of relationships, confronting emotions and deep-reaching search for approval, the audience is pulled right alongside him, feeling every blow and sympathizing with the very real emotions he has for a very realistic and witty, non-human intelligence.
I was initially put-off by the concept of this film. Seeing a mustachioed Joaquin Phoenix in futuristic, vintage hipster clothes in the movie’s trailer brought only one word to mind: creepy.
Knowing that I would be sitting through two hours of him wooing a cyber-lady did not make the movie sound much better.
My initial discomfort with the film grew at times as I watched “Her.” There is some objectionable, non-“Asbury appropriate” content, including scenes of nudity, language and other sexual or inappropriate content. However, in my personal opinion, the story of the film was redemptive enough to excuse some of the more objectionable parts.
I encourage you to see this film, but go with caution, and consider reading about some of the objectionable content before deciding to see it.
Despite some of my misgivings with the film, “Her,” under Jonze’s direction, became so much more than a story about a slightly creepy, everyday guy. It is a mirror, held up that we as 21st century humans might see ourselves as we really are — plugged in to our technology but very disconnected from one another. While this film does not moralize our need to put down our smart phones and look out into the world, it does provide an accurate picture of our growing obsession with social media and technology.
“Her” is poignant — a masterpiece for the millenials.