Synopsis: A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.
Spike Jonze is known for his abnormal films (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) but with his latest film Her, the usual abnormality is accompanied by a slew of creative elements that captivate an entire spectrum of emotions. Viewing this film was an emotional journey that brought laughter, sadness, inspiration, and awe, while also leaving a lasting impression that implored me to call Her my choice for the best picture of 2013.
I have been anticipating the return of Joaquin Phoenix and he comes back strong in Her. With his main supporting actor being entirely auditory based, Phoenix is able to masterfully exhibit the characteristics and expressions that accompany a relationship with another person even though every action required nothing more than a sincere vocal response. What I loved about his performance was that his change in vocal diction matched his physical responses flawlessly, which is quite a task for any actor and even more so if there is very little sharing amongst actors when it comes to screen time. The rest of the cast is completely overshadowed by Phoenix, but not in a bad way. Probably to maintain the theme of the film, the other roles are initially brief with only slightly increased moments of screen time following their introduction. The focus of this film is the Operating System (or “Her”) and the relationship with Phoenix (or “Him”) therefore making any other characters nothing more than a window to the world outside of their relationship.
This film definitely places focus on character development but the setting and period of the film are elements that make the relationship between man and computer both feasible and acceptable from the audience’s point of view. Expanding upon the rapid progression of social media and technology, it is easy to see how our relationships with technology could evolve from a pastime or dependency to a deep emotional connection or feelings of love. The futuristic setting provides the means for the characters’ relationship and the evolution of that relationship is the backbone of the film. The technological “elephant in the room” is quickly addressed through a series of humorous moments and is then forgotten after focus is taken to the main characters’ emotionally engaging conversations and progression of their relationship. Despite the lack of physical interaction, there are many common stages of many everyday human relationships. The initial excitement that fades, the fear of loss, the fighting with each other, and the fighting for the relationship are all stages that are addressed and relatable to the average couple. Every stage that accompanies the relationship is genuine but also throws in a short and quick reminder that this is not a normal human to human relationship. The progression and digression of the relationship is what connected me to the characters and the quick reminder of their differences is what continually piqued my interest from beginning to end.
Without spoiling the ending, I will say that this film fit together like a puzzle. The socially secluded lifestyle of Phoenix’s character is an effect of his own insecurities which slowly disappear over the course of his relationship with the Operating System. The relationship is something more than love, it is a catalyst for self-discovery from the human and machine perspective. As they both learn more about themselves, they find comfort in who they are and discover their place in the world.
Overall, Her is a film that takes you on a journey. During that journey you discover that love can be found anywhere but that journey cannot progress until you love yourself. The scenery is beautiful, the moments are heart-felt and sincere, the plot is captivating, and the acting is absolutely superb. It’s a shame that this film has not received the media coverage that it deserves because it is truly a creative masterpiece and my favorite film of 2013.
Her – 9 out of 10
My choice for the 2013 Best Picture