Director Spike Jonze’s new film, “Her,” is sweetly creepy. Known for his quirky approach to filmmaking (“Adaptation” and “Being John Malkovich”), Jonze doesn’t disappoint in this cleverly concocted visionary love story.
Set in the not-too-distant future, Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a personal letter writer for total strangers. He’s quite good at his job. In the sad throes of divorce, he purchases a computer operating system (aka OS). Her name is Samantha (the mesmerizing voice of Scarlett Johansson), and her delivery is so audibly fetching that Theodore falls madly in love with her. And the feeling is mutual.
It should seem freaky, but somehow we accept it as readily as Theodore does. When the relationship intensifies, Samantha longs for human form and, at one point, she provides it via a sex surrogate. Bad idea. Theodore’s chemistry with Samantha is so pure that the notion of physically being with anyone else would be tantamount to acting sacrilegiously. Samantha’s thirst for knowledge leads her to hook up with another OS and, eventually, she breaks Theodore’s heart.
In this society of instant gratification and runaway technology, Jonze seamlessly makes the leap in our accepting his concept. Face it — it’s no big deal to see people talking to non-physical entities with gadgets protruding from their ears already. His motive seems quite matter of fact, rather than a warning of what’s to come. “Her” is an ode to love and how we long to connect.
He’s assembled a gifted group of professionals who lend unadulterated credibility to a somewhat wacky premise. Amy Adams brilliantly makes the transition from sultry vixen in “American Hustle” to plain Jane as Theodore’s confidant in “Her.” And, speaking of sultry, Johansson is off the charts as the siren we never see. Hearing her act goes way beyond physicality. But, it’s Phoenix who nestles firmly under your skin as the melancholy, kindhearted Theodore who wants nothing more than to be in love. This guy is an impeccable actor.
“Her” never resorts to coming off as gimmicky or flashy. The artwork, cinematography and score perfectly complement the storyline. But for some, the profound subject matter may be disturbing. If it’s totally acceptable to be in love with a non-human, one could ask ... will we cease to exist?
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