Friday Features: 'Her' review

Friday Features: 'Her' review

Credit: Annapurna Pictures

Written and directed by Spike Jonze, “Her” is not your average romantic comedy-drama. This film is amusing, thought provoking, and technologically advanced, but it is also bizarre, graphic, and uncomfortable at times. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and Chris Pratt, “Her” is one of the stranger movies from the past year.

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by HAYDEN PITTMAN

WFAA Special Contributor

Posted on January 10, 2014 at 12:27 AM

Written and directed by Spike Jonze, “Her” is not your average romantic comedy-drama. This film is amusing, thought provoking, and technologically advanced, but it is also bizarre, graphic, and uncomfortable at times. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and Chris Pratt, “Her” is one of the stranger movies from the past year.

“Her” is the story of Theodore Twombly (Phoenix), a lonely, peculiar romantic who writes greeting cards and personal letters for people and involves his complicated relationship with an artificial intelligent operating system named Samantha (voiced by Johansson). While painfully postponing a divorce with his wife, Catherine (Mara), Theodore purchases an advanced operating system designed to talk, think, and mimic a human being without the body. Theodore helps Samantha develop a personality, learn about the world, and teaches her to want more, while she helps him work through his divorce and to not feel so alone. As they continue to connect and become more intimate, and as Samantha continues to explore the world, she gets smarter and keeps evolving. After some time, Theodore discovers that Samantha is not exclusive to him and is the operating system for several thousand others, which leaves him perplexed and upset at the thought that his entire relationship is a lie.

The film uses cutscenes, flashbacks, and music montages to explain, show history, and enhance the film. There is great instrumental and dramatic music throughout, and the movie walks a fine line between uplifting and emotionally depressing. Some of the romantic conversations carry on too long, and there are too many occasions when the characters are shown reflecting and contemplating their feelings. Theodore is a perfect character for Joaquin Phoenix’s very quirky and different type of acting. Amy Adams’ character is very similar to Theodore, as she searches for happiness and companionship, and Rooney Mara plays a subtle, great-looking wife to Theodore. Olivia Wilde’s role is very short-lived, as is Chris Pratt’s, but he definitely amuses the audience during his time on screen. Rivaling Phoenix’s performance, Scarlett Johansson voices a smart, sexy, and funny operating system.

Watching “Her” creates a whirlwind of feelings for the audience. On one hand, it’s great to see Theodore, who has been unhappy and depressed for a while, relate to someone and feel love again. At the same time, Samantha is a computer, their relationship is more than complicated to say the least, and while happy, their association may not always be healthy for Theo. There are multiple scenes where Theodore has phone/cyber sex with either Samantha or a call service, and while mildly sexy and often comical, these encounters are sometimes uncomfortable to watch. One scene in particular, where Samantha decides to send Theodore a real life girl to act as a surrogate body for them to perform real sexual acts, is about as strange as anything I’ve seen. The conversations between Theo and Sam are filled with romantic, flirtatious, and curious talk, and their interaction mimics well a real relationship.

This is the kind of deep, stimulating movie that holds your attention and really makes you think. It is set in a not-so-distant future city of Los Angeles, yet the characters are wearing vintage clothing (pants worn high), sporting mustaches, and old school hairstyles. The technology is extremely sophisticated, but not too far off to imagine. There are advanced computers, virtual gaming systems, and voice commands for just about everything. The idea of a relationship with an operating system is crazy to most of us today, but in this film, it becomes acceptable and a reality for some of the main characters who are isolated and struggling. This film makes you think about the evolution of future technology, the dependence many of us have now for it, and whether or not something like “Her” could ever happen.

“Her” redefines a relationship and what it means to be happy in the most bizarre way, while challenging audiences to think about how they use and interact with technology. At one point, Theodore’s wife Catherine says that the only reason he is dating a computer is because he cannot handle real life human emotions, problems and relationships. This creates an interesting and plausible point, as there are many isolated introverts out there in our world, and bottom line, relationships of any kind are complicated. There are many emotional ups and downs presented in this feature, but in the end, it appears to show that no matter how much technology becomes a part of us, it will never be as good as real human interaction.

Rated 3-out-of-5 stars.

“Her” is rated R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity. Running time is 2 hours and 6 minutes.


Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance film critic and entertainment blogger out of Dallas. More of his content can be found on YouPlusDallas.com and his author archive here. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and hopes to pursue a future in filmmaking and screenwriting. As an average, passionate film lover who rarely misses a film, his reviews are straightforward and his way with words will let you know in a simple way what he thinks. Don’t like what he has to say? Let him know at haydenp@youplusmedia.com or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt.

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