Some movies need to hold their secrets close. So I’ll tread lightly with Her, a love story between a man and technology, and a gloriously inventive gift from Spike Jonze. In his fourth feature, following Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Where the Wild Things Are, director Jonze (in his first original screenplay) imagines a near-future where we live green and our digital commands can become as intimate as a whisper. Joaquin Phoenix, in a deeply felt performance abounding in grace notes, plays Theodore Twombly, who writes letters online for people who can’t express their feelings. Theodore lives well in an L.A. of pristine skyscrapers. But he’s lonely. His wife (Rooney Mara) has left him. His best friend (an excellent Amy Adams) is distracted by her work as a video-game maker. No wonder Theodore feels he’s found the perfect woman in Samantha. The catch is she’s his computer’s operating system and knows him better than anyone; she’s programmed that way. Kudos to Scarlett Johansson, who speaks Samantha in tones sweet, sexy, caring, manipulative and scary. Johansson’s vocal tour de force is award-worthy. So is the movie. Ignore the soft ending. Jonze is a visionary whose lyrical, soulful meditation on relationships of the future cuts to the heart of the way we live now.
From The Archives Issue 1198: December 19, 2013