Ladies and gents, here is my Dose of Buffa movie review special. Since Landon Burris reviewed this film for my site, film-addict.com, I come here with my take on the film. I watched it at The Moolah last night and came away impressed, dazed, confused and looking at my IPhone a bit differently. As always this will be quick and blunt. First, let’s provide you with a setup.
PLOT-Theodore is a love letter writer in the near future and while his warm words liven up plenty of lives around the world, he is full of grief, regret and sadness. When he acquires a new operating system with a female voice, everything in his life starts to change. What kind of effect can a piece of software have on our lives if it were developed specifically for human interaction? Spike Jonze’s tale dives straight into that.
MY TAKE-This film presents you with quite the experience. Think of a world where the Siri on your IPhone suddenly developed into something much more. Think about a world where Siri became your secretary, best friend and lover all at the same time. That is what writer/director Spike Jonze is pointing at with his latest film, Her.
Without the effortless grace of Joaquin Phoenix, who play broken hearted better than any actor alive, this film would fall apart. He is our moral compass and the character who serves as our point of view for the entire film. His Theodore is a great writer of love letters(personalized Hallmark cards) but a man who is still suffering from the bluntness of a divorce and working his way into a world where connection is starting to be done via computer and person instead of face to face. Thank goodness Phoenix’s rapper detour was a hoax because the man is a gifted actor. The most subtle line readings and quirks in Theodore are flushed alive by the same man who once played Johnny Cash so well.
Jonze’s future is an interesting one. You no longer type on computers. Everything is voice activated. You command a standard operating system to read your emails, texts and news instead of scanning for them. Phones have gotten smaller and look like a small pocket book. Video games are played like an advanced version of Wii. People rarely stop to talk in public. Everyone seems to be talking to themselves. At first, it’s weird and doesn’t sit straight. Eventually, the familiarity of LA’s skyline(given a futuristic wipe here) and the new fashion styles and way of life encompass your world as if it was there all along.
Scarlett Johansson is the voice operating system called Samantha, and she becomes not only a part of Theodore’s life but connects to him in a way that we have always wanted our computers to do yet couldn’t find the way to execute it. She arranges his documents, emails and schedule. She gets him up in the morning and also wants to hear about his life. At first, the coupling is pleasant and serves as the perfect ally or wingman in the world. Your personal adviser inside your earlobe.
Then, Samantha wants to know more, want more, and is curious about the physical parts of Theodore’s world. I will be honest and admit. The sex scenes and erotic nature of this film produce laughs and intimacy within the audience and frames the idea of Jonze’s direct/indirect design of the world.
Johansson is amazing using only her voice and making you crave the rest. Voice work is no easy task when you have to go through the gauntlet of emotions inside a serious film. Scarlett does great work here creating this OS that seems to be so real yet is something we can’t touch yet…want to. Amy Adams gives a more introspective, soulful and more impressive performance(gasp!) here than she does in her Oscar nominated work in American Hustle. Her scenes with Phoenix are the lone bit of real human connection here that seems familiar and seemed at the same time. Rooney Mara and Chris Pratt give fine supporting performances in key roles.
All in all, this film works as a romantic drama that doesn’t forget to make you laugh. There is one episode of early phone sex that will have you laughing loudly(let’s just say pregnant nude photos mixed with sexy kittens). I like the fact that Jonze keeps you off balance with the injections of different genres and plot developments. We are never too comfortable with Samantha or her relationship with Theodore and that is the point. Separating artificial intelligence from real human interaction while appreciating the value of both and using it to wake yourself up. When we first me our Theo, he is smiling yet lost and hollow. By the end, he has traveled a bit and we have seen that transformation. Jonze doesn’t forget to enrich the journey while tripping your mind with different ideas.
Her is unpredictable, earnest, impressively acted and presents a brave new world to us while filling our eyes with candy. I highly recommend it.