Oscar Bait Season: Her
Reviewed by Jordan Goodier
Her is a hard film to classify because it delves into a few genres, but it’s described as a science-fiction, romantic-comedy, drama film; which is a mad thing to call a film, but that’s actually what it is; though I’d probably retract the “comedy” part. Other than a couple of scenes which had funny moments, which I’d have probably found ten times more awkward (and therefore more funny) if I’d watched the film with friends, the film wasn’t funny at all. It had a truckload of romance and drama though, with the science fiction being more of a background detail. Written and directed by Spike Jonze, Her tells the story of a lonely man who falls in love with his artificial operating system.
This film is only the fourth feature length that Spike Jonze has worked on since directing Being John Malkovich in 1999. Due to his past work, I was expecting this film to be pretty interesting and very different. And I was not disappointed in that respect. This film’s premise, at least, is very different; and I’ve never seen a film that delves quite so deeply into all the aspects of a romantic relationship. And I do mean all aspects. From a very awkward early scene which must be some sort of statement on the weird places you can meet people on the internet, to the intimate scenes where the characters express how deeply they feel about one another, I personally found this film incredibly difficult to watch; especially in the third act of the film, which shows the breakdown of the lead character’s relationship.
Despite Joaquin Phoenix being an extremely talented actor, I’ve only seen him in a couple of other films, which means I’ll have to try and watch more of the films that he has been in because his performance in this film is stunning. I understand that the category for the Academy Award for Best Actor had some tough competition this year, but this guy should have definitely been on the list. I didn’t rate American Hustle all that highly, so you know who I’d have Phoenix replace. Phoenix plays Theodore in the film and he’s amazing. How he manages to show all the complex emotions that someone can go through whilst experiencing all the complicated situations in his relationships is just awesome. I’m sure many people will be able to relate to Theodore in at least one way or another and this is effectively what will get you so emotionally invested in the story. You’ll care about this character because of the similar situation you’ve been in.
The other stand out performance in this film is Scarlett Johansson as the artificial intelligent operating system, Samantha. And you never actually see Johansson in this film, you only ever hear her voice, which makes her performance all the more astounding. You can feel the joy and the disappointment and the jealousy that Samantha feels throughout the film, just by Johansson using her voice. It’s some of the best voice over work I’ve ever seen (or heard) because Johansson gets to have such a range of emotions throughout the film, so she can really show off her acting talents. You may end up hating Samantha by the end of the film, but you have sympathy for her because of the difficult time her character must be going through, and she also makes you feel her pain and torment that she’s going through. The acting in this film is definitely some of the best I’ve seen from 2013’s films, and it’s helped massively because of the incredible screenplay by Spike Jonze.
Though the various details of the film are a bit lavish, the hyper intelligent artificial intelligence being the craziest thing, the script manages to make the story feel real and grounded because the subject is something almost everyone can relate to in some way. The dialogue can be cheesy at times, but that’s because sometimes people say cheesy things in a relationship; and they can say hurtful things and people can be forced into difficult conversations with their partners, etc, etc. This film, oddly, captures what it’s like to fall in love and to lose someone perfectly. And that’s why I found it difficult to watch.
Beautiful cinematography on display also, this film looks beautiful, even though much of it is spent in a city. The directing and writing are also pretty incredible and the acting performances are some of the best I’ve seen. This film gets a hearty recommendation from me, which is a nice surprise, because I knew absolutely nothing about this film before watching it. It’s nice to see that a great deal of the films doing the rounds at the awards this year, are pretty fantastic films. I’m not sure I’d recommend watching this film with anyone if you want it to have the biggest impact on you, it feels like quite an “intimate” film.