It’s an enjoyable film. HER is woven around a smart idea. It’s a well-written, directed, beautifully and thoughtfully production designed, underplayed, and competently performed film, an ideal Valentine Day treat for lonely computer nerds.
It’s set in the future. However, to term it as a sci-fi genre film will give you a wrong idea. The future looks more like the past…not the Gothic one, but something akin to a mix of functional and Art Deco without the rounded corners, subtly bright and pastel shaded, uncluttered and pleasing to eyes, and well organized with every object in its rightful place, people busy in their routine jobs…generally satisfied and laid back. This is a peaceful place and an ideal setting for romance. Even the costumes have a retro look and style.
The film opens with our mustachioed hero Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) dictating a love letter to his computer that will reproduce it as a hand-written personalized letter to be sent on behalf of a client to his girlfriend or wife. That’s Theodore’s job, ghostwriting love letters.
Ironically, Theodore himself is going through a crisis in his love and sex life. His many years of marriage to his childhood love Catherine (Rooney Mara) has broken down and the process of divorce is on. He also has a cute little daughter Jocelyn (Gracie Prewitt) from this marriage. He spends most of his free time playing virtual reality games at home punctuated by occasional interactions with his neighbors Amy (Amy Adams), a documentary filmmaker, and her boy-friend Charles (Matt Letscher). They are at the verge of separation as well.
It’s at this time Samantha enters Theodore Twombly life to enliven it. The problem is she is not a flesh-and-blood person. She is an intuitive computer operating system called OS1 that can talk to him and even read his mind. He can be in touch with her all the time through a hand-held cell phone like device.
Since she has complete access to his computer hardware she knows quite a bit about him and processes that information to understand his needs and serve him well. She picks up every day threads of his life, and even grows as a bodiless unseen yet with a persona of her own in the process. And though we don’t see her, we hear her slightly husky, pleasing, warm, friendly, youthful, yet very intelligent sounding voice (Scarlett Johansson). Theodore finally falls in love with Samantha.
She becomes friend, philosopher, and guide and a near perfect mate to him. She helps him sort out quite a few things in life, finds a blind date named Amelia (Olivia Wilde) for him, collates his love letters finds a publisher, and gets them published as a book. She also has a sex chat with him as part of her own learning experience. And lo and behold, one day she organizes a surrogate to provide a real sexual experience to Theodore of having sex with her. The experiment does not work though. But can this last? What if the OS1 crashes or gets upgraded?
You can look at this concept film in all sorts of ways, as a metaphor for digital age existence, either Utopian or dystopian, or you can ignore the sci-fi elements and enjoy the unique romantic relationship between Samantha and Theodore and the other familiar characters. It’s an uncomplicated conversational film about romance, love, and sex in times when our lives will revolve around various digital devices. We have started experiencing it already with the advent of 3G and 4G wireless technology. All the actors have done full justice to their roles. They come across as warm-hearted, friendly, and quite sorted out souls, generally at peace with themselves yet vulnerable and childlike. The girls look beautiful, natural, and desirable. It’s a very pleasant sci-fi film with likeable and nostalgic retro feel of the sixties.
The laid-back camera movements, shot compositions, lighting, production design, minimalist background score, and all other elements in the film compliment each other very well and you come out of the cinema hall, a bit amused, intrigued, surprised, and warmed up.
However, it’s the unseen Samantha’s voice that creates the real magic. It’s so perfectly cast. If there were an Oscar for voice over, Scarlett Johansson would have been a formidable contender for it this year.
Director : Spike Jonze
Producer : Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze, Vincent Landay
Artists (Cast) : Amy Adams, Joaquin Phoenix, Olivia Wilde, Rooney Mara, Scarlett Johansson
Music Director : Arcade Fire
Editor : Eric Zumbrunnen, Jeff Buchanan
Rating : 3.5/5
HER Movie Review by Rajesh Kumar Singh (the author) is Editorial Consultant for Festivals and Markets for BollywoodTrade.com. He is a filmmaker, critic and market analyst. The information and views set out in this movie review are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the Publication/Organization. Neither the Publication/Organization nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.