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Five Views: Her

January 10, 2014

Her PosterHer – A Warner Bros. Release

Release Date: December 18th, 2013 (Limited)

January 10th, 2014 (Wide)

Rated 14A for coarse language and sexual content

Running time: 126 minutes

Spike Jonze (dir.)

Spike Jonze (writer)

Owen Pallett (music)

Arcade Fire (music)

Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore

Scarlett Johansson as Samantha (voice)

Rooney Mara as Catherine

Amy Adams as Amy

Chris Pratt as Paul

Olivia Wilde as Blind Date


©Warner Bros.  All Rights Reserved.

Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) installs his Operating System Samantha (voice of Scarlett Johansson) in Her.

Our reviews below:


Her Review By John Corrado

**** (out of 4)

At the beginning of Her, we see Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) poetically declaring his love for someone, and pan out to discover he works for a company that provides handwritten love letters for people who have long since forgotten how to share their own feelings.  Set in a dreamily realized near future version of Los Angeles, this is just the first of many provocative ideas presented throughout visionary director Spike Jonze’s latest work of art.

Theodore is lonely, and we sense sadness behind his signature moustache and glasses.  He lives in the same apartment building as his friend Amy (Amy Adams), who is helping him manage through the final stages of his divorce from Catherine (Rooney Mara).  But then he installs a new operating system on his computer that addresses herself as Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johannson), an artificially intelligent and seemingly sentient program that is rapidly evolving with every new experience.  Samantha comes to understand Theodore through the files on his computer and the glimpses of the world that she is given through his cellphone camera, and they start to fall for each other in very real ways.

This is a quirky and offbeat film with a lot of strange ideas at play throughout, but the fact that things always feel believable might just be the grander statement that Spike Jonze is trying to make about our society as a whole.  We watch crowds of people looking lost as they wander the streets, ignoring each other in favour of their electronic devices, small handheld gadgets that flip open like books connected to earpieces that are constantly feeding information into their brains.  Despite the upgrades in software, the devices look plasticy and cheap, perhaps a purposefully cynical touch from the production designers.

The story takes some interesting turns that keep things unpredictable, and what I admire about Her is that the central relationship is treated respectfully.  The quiet conversations between Theodore and Samantha feel natural and real, thanks in large part to the excellent cast.  Joaquin Phoenix delivers another masterful performance, portraying the small nuances of his character largely through close ups on his face.  Scarlett Johansson builds an equally complex character, relying only on her sensual voice to portray profound emotion.  Amy Adams is also wonderful, bringing appealing charm to her equally important supporting role.

The music by Canadian musicians Arcade Fire and Owen Pallet is also excellent, including a haunting tune called “The Moon Song” by Karen O.  From the production design to the screenplay, Her is a beautifully written and brilliantly acted conversation piece about the nature of relationships and our increasing over reliance on technology, that leads to a touchingly perfect final scene.


Her Review by Erin V.

**** (out of 4)

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) works at a letter sending company, where people have him ghostwrite letters from them to their loved ones.  He excels at his job, with a poetic sense of love, despite having just divorced from his own love Catherine (Rooney Mara).  Theodore goes about his days lonely and longing for some semblance of a connection again.  When he sees an ad from a new OS (Operating System), that will be personalized and help organize the users life, he impulse-buys one.  When the system initializes, he chooses it to communicate with him via a female voice, and after asking him a few questions, it is set up.  But what Theodore doesn’t expect is how funny, smart, and caring his OS is when talking to him.  And soon he is not just having ‘Samantha’ (voice of Scarlett Johansson) organize his virtual life, but talking to her like a friend and even girlfriend as well.

It is hard for him not to.  Hearing her speak, she could just as easily be a friend on the phone on the other side of his earpiece.  Plus, she seems to replicate his feelings.  But as time goes on, it is clear that while she has AI, she is also not a human and the world of the OS’s may not be as compatible as he initially thinks.

The film is fascinating as the development of the relationship seems very genuine, and the questions it poses about Artificial Intelligence provide a lot to think about.  Joaquin Phoenix gives an excellent performance as does the rest of the cast.  While it won’t be the most mainstream film with its very distinct indie feel, Her is definitely worth seeing, especially as it garners the well-deserved awards attention over the next couple months.


Her Review by Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Could a computer ever feel love?  That is one of the many fascinating philosophical questions raised in Her.  Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely, separated man living in the near future.  When he purchases a new operating system, it ask him several psychological questions, and then asks which gender he would like it to have.  Theodore picks female, and almost immediately the OS (Scarlett Johansson) has a personality.

She names herself Samantha, and through Theodore, learns about emotions including love.  Theodore falls in love with Samantha, bringing her around with him everywhere.  The feelings seem to be mutual, and Samantha seems like the perfect girlfriend.  However, as she evolves, it becomes harder to tell how human or computer she is.

Her is a fascinating movie.  The performances are incredible, making this strange tale very relatable and believable.  There are a lot of comedic moments, including a funny virtual video game involving an adorable, yet foulmouthed alien snowman type character.  The musical score by Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett is simple and beautiful, capturing the low key, reflective tone of the film.

The screenwriting is highly intelligent, raising many questions about what constitutes a mind, or even a soul.  These debates about artificial intelligence vs. living, sentient beings have been recently raised as scientists around the world are coming up with computer brain models to replace animal testing.  These computer models will be designed to not feel emotions or pain, and they won’t think or have a soul, definitions that separate these future brain models from humans and other animals.  Samantha, on the other hand, does think.  But does she feel?  Does she have a soul?

Her raises these questions, while at the same time is a funny, heartbreaking and wonderfully human story that is sure to get Oscar attention.


Her Review by Maureen

**** (out of 4)

Imagine a world where no one has to experience loneliness.  All you need to do is find the right operating system for your computer.  Director Spike Jonze creates such a world in Her, a surrealistic dramedy that explores the experience of love.

Theodore (Theo) Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) writes sweet and sentimental personal correspondence letters for a living.  His own romantic life is at a standstill after the breakdown of his marriage to his childhood sweetheart, Catherine (Rooney Mara).  Theodore is quiet and introspective with only a handful of friends, including neighbour Amy (Amy Adams) who has marital problems of her own.

Everything changes for him when he purchases a new operating system, OS1.  His new OS is artificial intelligence based and introduces herself as Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).  Samantha is designed to learn quickly from Theodore and evolves into a genuine friend.  Their daily banter is easygoing and increasingly intimate.  Overtime, Theodore concludes and Samantha agrees that this is love.

The relationship between Theodore and Samantha is oddly believable in Her.  This is a world where many people date their OS rather than connecting intimately with a live human being.  Samantha helps him grow as a person, but the question becomes is this real?  Joaquin Phoenix is incredibly touching as the sensitive and vulnerable Theodore.  This is an awards worthy performance.  Most of his scenes involve acting against a voice.  Scarlett Johansson’s vocal performance is excellent, and the supporting work from Amy Adams and Rooney Mara is really good.

Her is thought provoking, intelligent, touching and completely unique.  One of the best movies of 2013.


Her Review by Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

The first feature both written and directed by Spike Jonze, Her is set in the near future when artificial intelligence (AI) devices have finally passed the Turing test for human-equivalent communication. Theodore (Joaquin Phœnix) is a sensitive writer for an online surrogate letter service, lonely after breaking up with his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). Finding blind dates (Olivia Wilde) and phone sex (Kristen Wiig) unsatisfactory, Theodore purchases a new operating system (OS) as a personal assistant and companion. Calling itself Samantha, the charming voice (Scarlett Johansson) in Theodore’s earpiece proves to be much more than he could have hoped.

Theodore’s relationship with the rapidly evolving OS develops inevitably into love. Though his ex is creeped out by this, both his old friend Amy (Amy Adams) whose own spouse moved on to an ashram, and coworker (Chris Pratt) who is in a normal committed relationship, are happy for the great comfort and joy that Samantha has obviously brought to him. Of course, any bond between a mortal and inanimate entity can not last forever, leading to an interesting and bittersweet conclusion.

At over two hours Her seemed a bit long at times, but brilliant performances from Phœnix, whose face often filling the screen expresses every nuance of Theodore’s emotions, and Scarlett Johansson’s voice, carry us along this slightly disturbing but fascinating journey.


Consensus: Fronted by brilliant acting from Joaquin Phoenix and exceptional voice work from Scarlett Johansson, Spike Jonze’s Her is a beautifully written look at relationships that raises fascinating questions about technology.  **** (Out of 4)

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