The computers have taken over our love lives! So, instead of that pesky HAL locking the pod bay doors and killing people, these computers open our hearts and make us fall in love. And to think, I’d just settle for being able to figure out how to get rid of pop-up ads when I’m on a website. Unfortunately for Joaquin Phoenix, it’s not like the guys in Weird Science who created Kelly LeBrock from their computer. He only gets a voice.
Writer/director Spike Jonze has become one of the most original filmmakers working today. Think of the unique Being John Malkovich or one of the rare good Nicolas Cage movies – Adaptation. I just now remembered, he also did my daughters favorite all-time movie – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
What almost killed this movie for me was the concept. It’s really hard to believe the fact that Joaquin Phoenix would fall in love with a computer operating system that was created specifically for him. At the end of the day, he’d realize it was just a computer. It’s the same reason I didn’t care for Lars and the Real Girl. I just didn’t buy it (and it was never all that interesting).
Now, I could see Harrison Ford falling for replicant Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner…so perhaps if the computer looked like Scarlett Johansson, that would’ve helped in that regard. Oh, and on that subject…it’s disappointing that original actress Samantha Morton had her dialogue replaced by Johansson. Sure, Johansson was sexy in Don Jon, but her voice didn’t work as well for me in this; and after seeing Morton in The Messenger, I would’ve preferred the film with her voice tracks (It’s also odd that the computer created woman is named Samantha).
At least by the second half of the movie, you realize Johansson and Phoenix do have some chemistry (note to self: find out if you can say “chemistry” if the actress doesn’t appear in any of the scenes).
Phoenix plays Theo, a professional letter-writer who is still pining for the wife that left him (Rooney Mara). He’s friends with his neighbor (Amy Adams), and in a smart decision by Jonez, he’s not some lonely sad sack. He has a few co-workers he interacts with. His life may be the same routine day after day, but he is also going through a bad break-up. Who hasn’t been there?
Once Theo orders the new operating system for his computer, which has been programmed to be specifically to his liking, he quickly falls for Samantha, the voice of the “O.S.”
It would sound utterly ridiculous to say that he takes her to the county fair (using his webcam), but the scene actually works. You might think that you’d never engage in such a bizarre relationship, but you probably spent some portion of your holiday gathering texting into a phone, instead of talking to family members sitting across from you.
Also, think of the friends we know that spend ungodly amounts of time in chat rooms or on message boards. They’ve devoted lots of time to people they’ve never met, and may never meet.
Amy Adams, who was with Phoenix in the disappointing The Master last year, gives Meg Ryan a run for her money during an orgasm scene. Oh, and in the future, women don’t wear make-up and men have pants that ride higher up than your grandfathers. At least it’s not like the sci-fi movies we had in the ‘70s. Lots of silver, onesie outfits.
This movie was no Frank and Robot. Heck, it wasn’t even The Man with Two Brains. Yet after a slow start, I found it whimsically capturing my imagination, and I thought about it for weeks afterwards.
It could’ve used some editing and been a tighter film, and there were many scenes I would’ve liked to have seen (including a different ending, the computer sabotaging a possible reconciliation with his ex-wife, to name a few).
Had the movie done those things, it would easily have been a 5 star film.
It was voted best of the year by our San Diego Film Critics Society (and many other film critic groups). It’ll surely be nominated for a few Oscars.
“The past is just a story we tell ourselves,” is a line the Samantha says at one point. Well, this is a story you’ll see and be telling others about. Ignore the fact that it’s a goofy title for a movie. After Saving Mr. Banks and now Her…I wonder what studios are thinking. Especially when the title “Letters From Your Life” would’ve been perfect (that’ll make sense after you see it).
Half a star given for having Arcade Fire do the score, and the soundtrack including songs by Karen O and The Breeders.
This gets 3 ½ stars out of 5.