This week on At the Movies, Peter Travers highlights a true heart-warmer – Her, the latest film from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Spike Jonze. The picture is now seeing a wider release after initially opening in two cities so that it could qualify for the Academy Awards, and “I hope to hell it gets a mess of them, because it’s that good,” Travers raves. And the praise isn’t just because Travers bears a striking resemblance to Theodore, the film’s mustachioed protagonist (played tenderly by Joaquin Phoenix).
Set in Los Angeles in the near future, Her is undoubtedly a romance, but a unique one in that the titular object of Theodore’s affection is his Samantha, his operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johanson). Unlike his ex-wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara), or Amy (Amy Adams), a platonic friend who lives above him, Samantha is the one voice in Theodore’s life that seems to really understand him. He takes her out with, showing her the world via the camera on his phone. Their relationship blossoms not because she coddles or flatters him; rather, as Travers describes, because she listens and cares for him.
While we never see Scarlett Johanson’s face, Travers declares her turn, “the best performance she’s ever given.” Written and directed by Jonze, Her isn’t fast-paced, but the director’s striking, often strange visuals take the movie to a new place, creating a vision of the future that’s different from anything else. “You’re not seeing some hack-work, Hollywood crap,” says Travers. “This is the kind of movie you take home with you.”