Screened Out – Her

By : Stephen Miller
Comments: 0

Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Scarlett Johannson, Olivia Wilde

Some people will love Her, and some people will hate it; others will feel many things at the same time. It’s hard to tell if this is a romance, a comedy, or a satire, but it’s always entertaining, thought provoking, emotionally challenging, and visually interesting.

In short, Her is an ingenious piece of cinema that takes us into a world we almost recognize, while the story makes us feel in deep, conflicted ways.

Phoenix is a tech-savvy but lonely man living in the somewhat near future. When he hears of an operating system that can mimic human emotion and interaction, he buys it because that’s what tech-savvy, lonely people might do. Recently divorced and often confused by human interaction, Phoenix is understandably drawn to the idea of a virtual partner. When he starts up his new software, He meets Samantha (voiced by Johansson), who is programmed to evolve, question, and build relationships.

Already, the story is fraught with questions. Can this man build intimacy with computer code? How fulfilling is it? Is his fixation on Samantha just replacing human interaction? Is this film just a sly joke on how people are addicted to their augmented reality, their own gadgetry?

Amy Adams (here with Joaquin Phoenix) gives one of her best performances.

Amy Adams (here with Joaquin Phoenix) gives one of her best performances.

Her thinks it’s just fine to challenge its audience, never answering its own questions. The script never plays for laughs or winks, instead presenting the story with honesty and empathy, letting the viewers decide for themselves.

The performances are quiet, yet astounding. Phoenix finds profound humanity in his character’s recent divorce, his distance, and his creativity. Long-term friend Adams provides some fascinating and sympathetic insight into the joys of virtual reality. (It’s her best performance since The Fighter.) Coworker Pratt is delightfully accepting of all the weirdness of this world.

“I’m dating an OS [operating system],” Phoenix repeatedly blurts out, circumventing his own confusion and shame with blunt transparency.

As we get to know Johansson’s Samantha, we may even see how Phoenix’s relationship is entirely possible. As the film progresses, we also grow to understand their relationship’s complexity in ways we may not have previously considered.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

The real champion here is director/cowriter Spike Jonze, who never fails to make interesting films (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation). His Her is one surprise after another, never going exactly where you think it might and yet seeming inevitable. His visuals are breath taking, prosaic and charming, and his attention is loving and respectful. Her is a technically brilliant and deeply felt, quiet and gentle piece of art.

However, make no mistakes; Her is also challenging and often discomfiting. I found myself wincing at several moments, their candor and bravery. In the end, this film may make us question our relations with gadgets, and with the second lives we all so easily create through technology.

I did find it funny that many people in the preview showing of Her were so frustrated by this beautiful, troubling, and sincere film that they couldn’t wait to turn on their Smartphones and Facebook and Tweet about it.

Share this story: