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Falling in love with Spike Jonze's 'Her'

Movie Review

By Britton Perelman
On February 4, 2014

"Falling in love is a crazy thing to do; it's like a socially acceptable form of insanity."

In a world that continually churns out movies that are all far too similar to one another, "Her" is a wonderful breath of fresh air. Nominated for five Academy Awards that it very much deserves, including Best Picture of the Year, Spike Jonze's futuristic love story is painful, honest and heartbreakingly real.  

Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a lonely, recently-divorced online love letter writer. The irony in the fact that he writes beautiful love letters for strangers yet can't seem to emotionally connect to the people in his own life is lost on no one. Although Phoenix plays a character who seems to be his trademark, broken, tortured and extremely emotional, there's no denying his portrayal is perfect.

Everyone in Jonze's cleverly thought-out world of the not-so-distant future is self-absorbed and technology-dependent, with the newest trend being an artificial intelligence operating system. Theodore is no different than everyone else, except that when he upgrades, he begins to fall in love with his operating system (OS), Samantha, voiced beautifully by Scarlett Johansson.

Samantha organizes and learns more about Theodore's life with an innocent, childlike view on life that is almost humbling at times. She asks Theodore, "How do you share your life with somebody?" because the concept truly makes no sense to her. The world is completely new to her and she yearns to learn as much as she can about herself, and about everything. In this way, she makes Theodore, and the audience, begin to look at life and love again, as if for the first time.

As Theodore and Samantha's relationship develops, the audience's initial doubts and prejudices fade away. The audience watches them get to know one another, fall in love, go on cute dates, and even have their first argument. They're an odd pair, whose unlikely romance brings up very realistic issues about what it means to love, be in a relationship, deal with emotions and be human.

Their relationship is tested by the boundaries inherent in it. Samantha is an operating system and therefore has no body, something that severely limits her and, inevitably, their relationship. Although she feels humanlike emotions, she isn't human, a fact that Theodore reminds her of more than she'd prefer. The question is eventually posed, though never properly answered and left up to interpretation, about whether or not their relationship is even real.

What's refreshing about "Her" is that it's a challenge. The audience has to work to accept the nature of the story that ultimately leaves them contemplating what love is, the role of self-acceptance in relationships and the challenge of being in love with a person who will ultimately grow and change throughout the course of time. Unlike the majority of movies produced today, "Her" prompts the audience to become actively involved in the story, to think about the issues it raises and to come to individual conclusions.

With absolutely beautiful cinematography and precise storytelling, Spike Jonze has created something completely original that will force audiences to look at the world in a new light. Add the fact his story is perfectly casted, down to minor characters played incredibly by Amy Adams and Rooney Mara, and this movie is easily one of the best of the year.


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