Part of the beauty of Spike Jonze’s near-future love story “Her” lies in what it is not. It’s not a cynical indictment of our interaction with technology. It’s not a whimsical farce about a pathetic sadsack.
Instead, it’s an abundantly earnest look at the pain of loss and the rebirth of new love that somehow feels wholly original and familiar at the same time.
In a near-future version of Los Angeles, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a copywriter for a company called Beautiful Handwritten Letters, writing personal notes for strangers. He’s got a special touch for expressing the feelings of others and a whirlpool of his own swirling beneath a somber surface. Friends including Amy (Amy Adams) are hoping to bring Theodore out of a funk brought on by separation from his wife (Rooney Mara).
Then Theodore buys a revolutionary new operating system, one that personalizes just for him (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Her name is Samantha. And Theodore and Samantha slowly fall in love.
A lot of people will tell you that I love my iPhone, but I don’t love love my iPhone. But Jonze rarely if ever plays this love story as a gag, as easy as that would be.
Directing the first feature script that he wrote himself, Jonze lays out Theodore’s melancholy in a tender, personal way. And, as he finds love, we find ourselves strangely rooting for him and Samantha, until the eventual bumps that any relationship sees.
Of course, much credit goes to his lead actors. Phoenix fits like a glove for the mumbling, awkward and often heartbreaking Theodore. It runs a close race with “The Master” for the best performance of his career.
Johannsson’s performance is also a high-water mark, and the fact that a disembodied voice is getting awards buzz in supporting acting categories should tell you something.
“Her” is also filled with gorgeous cinematography and sets, but the love story is the hook. Its two hours of ups and downs may not satisfy those looking for a simple story, but love ain’t simple, people.