Spike Jonze’s latest passion-project has seen titanic amounts of hype, and now that it’s been unveiled, I must say that “Her” ranks among the best films I’ve seen in the past several years. Set in the near future, the film follows the story of Theodore – a man disillusioned by his recent divorce who falls in love with Samantha, his sentient computer operating system – or “OS. Theo is played beautifully by Joaquin Phoenix, who has to be considered a rising contender for the title of top working actor in Hollywood. Scarlett Johansson’s performance as the title character is also terrific; she’ll make you fall in love with her right along with Theodore.
Despite its high-tech concept, the heart of “Her” is very much human. It’s the tale of a true and passionate love that could never be – a hypermodern Romeo and Juliet. Whereas it feels natural to root for the original star-crossed lovers, Jonze challenges the viewer’s perceptions of what real love can or should be by giving its protagonist a partner whom people may not accept. “How can he date a computer?” To Jonze’s credit, enough time is spent developing the relationship between the two partners to make their courtship feel authentic. Jonze handles topics like sex – that may have been hammy or crude in less sure hands – with the utmost delicacy and respect. At its essence, this is not a story “of a man falling in love with Siri” as many have opined. The tropes typical of the “computer come to life” genre are refreshingly absent, as “Her” proves itself too intelligent to succumb to such convention. This “not-far-off-fantasy” encourages more thought and discourse than a movie grounded in strict reality could. It is a painfully poignant and honest look at relationships, and unearths truths that will sit with you for weeks.
The movie also has a few comedic bits that range from laugh-out-loud funny/charming to a bit distracting. Still, there is very little to complain about. I can’t remember the last time a movie elicited the sort of emotional response that this one did. Profound and beautiful, “Her” will cut to your core – even if it’s made up of circuitry.