Her is a movie that I was virtually pre-programmed to like but it’s always nice when a movie exceeds your expectations. It’s a beautiful piece of filmmaking from start to finish set in the barely distant future that centers on Theodore Twombly, a man going through a divorce who ends up falling in love with his new operating system. It’s a brilliant concept with a series of imaginative details sprinkled throughout that help build what feels like a fully formed world. But Her ends up being much more than a clever logline and some memorable set pieces, it is at times hilarious, heartbreaking, resonant, relatable and very relevant. It’s full of big ideas that will have your mind traveling down different paths at every turn but in the end it’s simply a movie about learning how to connect with the world around you.
At the heart of this film is Joaquin Phoenix’s stunning performance, which for my money was easily the year’s best. It required someone interesting but slightly off with a rich inner world that you could detect just by looking in their eyes or hearing them speak. Phoenix proves up to the task, carrying virtually the entire movie with body language and one-sided reactions shot in close-up as he responds to a leading lady present in voice only. And oh that voice… Sometimes the best choice is the most obvious and as much as I like Samantha Morton (Spike’s original choice) it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Scarlett Johannson bringing Samantha to life in such memorable fashion. Amy Adams, Chris Pratt and the supporting cast are excellent but the entire movie hinges on the success of its leading man and his ability to make you believe that this type of relationship is possible and not just a joke. That Joaquin Phoenix delivers so convincingly is a testament to his growth and ability as an actor.
I loved everything about this movie – Spike Jonze’s intuitive but wholly unpredictable script, Arcade Fire’s vibrant soundtrack, Hoyte Van Hoytema’s gorgeous photography, KK Barrett’s purposely minimal production design and Casey Storm’s similarly thoughtful wardrobe decisions. Obviously this movie wouldn’t exist without Spike’s beautifully warped view of the world but it’s all these elements working together in perfect harmony that ends up making this film truly special. I loved that their vision of the future wasn’t focused on technological advancements or shiny suits but instead featured a warm color palette, slight tweaks to current fashion, keyboard-less communication and foul-mouthed video game projections. Handwrittenletters.com by itself is evidence of Spike’s genius. There were plenty of good movies this year but Her was the only one that felt truly original and spoke directly to life as it’s being experienced right now. It’s a movie I’m still thinking about a week later and hands down my favorite film released this year.
If you’re still going over all the little details and trying to figure out how they created the movie’s unique atmosphere Vulture did us all a favor and pulled together quotes with links to the full articles from many of the film’s key collaborators. Highly recommended reading for any fan of the film.