Review: what is it about Her?

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I was very sceptical in going to watch this film, as, somehow, a story about a guy falling in love with a computer just didn’t push my buttons. And on Valentine’s Day, it could have gone down as my worst in 28 years.

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However, I was all but blown away by its beauty, honesty, and simplicity. Joaquim Phoenix is a revelation in understated performance, with Amy Adams his perfect running mate in that category. It could have been so easy to overegg or ham up the action to make false “moments” and detract from the depth and warmth carried in the script, but the camera alone was enough to convey the intensity of emotion, through a clever combination of wonderful close-ups and dazzling cityscapes.

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Within minutes I was over how contrived the film’s premise was (the virtual intercourse moment was a bit much for me, but we’ll gloss over that) and I became lost in the utterly believable relationship a human can have with a manmade operating system. This was aided by having the other characters understand and support the central character’s situation – perhaps a vision of an idyllic future where techno-geeks are seen as people too. There was nothing in the film to indicate that for one moment it was a ridiculous situation, while it also struck me that it probably won’t be long before such circumstances actually become everyday reality.

The plot itself had just enough ups and downs to keep up pace and interest, with a decent sprinkling of both comedy and moments to almost make me cry a little bit. The dialogue was smooth and at no point seemed contrived or unnatural, so even Scarlett Johansen’s disembodied character, Samantha, was able to communicate effectively without seeming robotic or disenfranchised – double hats off to writer/Director Spike Jonze for this. And while we’re on the subject of Scarlett Johansen: what a sexy voice that lady has! I was surprised that she was cast for this role to start with (I must say that prior to this film I was guilty of thinking that her best asset was her appearance), but she delivers incredibly without being over the top, as does the ever solid Rooney Mara in a relatively small, but perfectly formed role.

Although only nominated for a few Oscars, I do have high hopes for this film, and would not be surprised for it to win almost everything it is up for. It is a shame Joaquim Phoenix was overlooked for his performance, given the intensity and subtlety with which he played his role. It is a very pleasant revelation of a film though, and a further sign that tastes this year are leaning towards my favoured “simple yet effective” formula (Gravity, Blue Jasmine etc.).

Special mention should also go to the Wardrobe, for Joaquim’s seemingly endless supply of high-waisted trousers, which, somehow, he managed to pull off without having looked like he’d just walked off the set of Anything Goes. In fact, the design, colour and photography all worked so beautifully together that even on the big screen, the film seems less like Hollywood, and more like home.

But if you don’t like the sound of any of that, then go and see it just for the soundtrack. Haunting, uplifting and understated. I guarantee that there is something about Her that you will fall in love with too.

Her (2013)
Director: Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson
Reviewed by Steve Griffin