'HER' (R) (4 STARS) (HIGHEST RATING)
Written and Directed by Spike Jonze
Actors: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Portia Doubleday.
Most movies think they know about how real relationships work and how real love should feel. Most of these movies get it so wrong, it becomes pathetic. It takes an offbeat love story like the futuristic "HER" to become the most perceptive, real, honest and most beautiful story of love and relationships I have seen. Spike Jonze has written one of the best love stories of our time, a movie that will be remembered 50 years from now as timeless and groundbreaking. I mean groundbreaking in a written sense, this being a hauntingly beautiful, hilarious and real screenplay, some of the best writing I have experienced in a movie in ages. It is astounding that not one movie in at least 20 years has been as poetic and real when dealing with love and relationships as Spike Jonze's wonderful screenplay is.
"HER" stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Trumbley, a man who works writing hallmark like cards for any occasion. He is very great at writing these internet cards but is seems that he knows nothing about expressing his own feelings. He is recently divorced and the only real contact he now has with love is writing these cards. He downloads an OS which is a Operating System, sort of like Suri but way more detailed and life like. The Operating System he downloads is a female OS named Samantha. Samantha is there to fulfill every need that Theodore has. She reads his emails for him, deletes emails that are a waste of his time and suggests things that Theodore can do to make his life more comfortable.
Then Samantha will actually become more than just a secretary on a computer or I phone screen. She will be curious about Theodore's past relationships, what it is like to be married and separated and what it feels like to love someone. This is all I want to tell you because I want you to experience this cold, it is a movie that will surprise you and make you think. It is not all serious, it has some great scenes dealing with futuristic video games and computers themselves that are hilarious and some brilliant, laugh out loud scenes like a middle of the night sex chat scene. The movie has a futuristic feel (the movie is set in the near future) to it and the movie is beautifully shot but it doesn't feel cold like a science fiction movie. The screenplay is too real, warm, haunting and beautiful for the movie to feel cold.
The movie actually is scary for how perceptive it is when pin pointing flawlessly how hard it is to express what we really feel when it comes to relationships. It also brilliantly captures how little, petty arguments can ruin relationships. How we become lost and disconnected from others because we are so wrapped up in computers and social media, because it is easier not to deal with people. This realism comes from a movie dealing with a human and his Operating System, that is how brilliant this screenplay by Spike Jonze is.
The movie would also not work without the amazing performances by it's two lead actors. Let's start with Scarlett Johansson, one of our finest actors. She is doing a voice for a computer Operating System, we can't see her, we can not see how she reacts to the human emotions stirred up by Theodore. Even though we can't see her, Johansson is that much more brilliant with her performance. It is such a brilliant performance that I could actually picture her facial reactions and feel her hurt and amazement just by how she uses her voice. If she doesn't get an Oscar nomination for, let alone win Best Actress at the Oscars, it will be a tragedy and a travesty of justice.
Joaquin Phoenix has given us so many great performances but his performance here as Theodore is easily his best work to date. It is a subtly powerful, aching, touching and truthful performance. We also have to consider the fact that Phoenix is not in the room with Johansson but he makes it feel like she is in the room. That is a difficult job for any actor and Phoenix is perfect, one of the best performances I have seen by an actor. Spike Jonze gets great work from his actors, has written one of the best love stories of our time with brilliant dialogue and shoots the movie with beautiful precision. The story is not only breathtaking and powerful, the movie looks beautiful without Jonze ever showing off. He has now become one of the best and most original writers and directors of our generation.
The power and poignancy of "HER" is undeniable for it has stayed with me hours after I have seen it. It has made me look at love and the state of my past relationships with open eyes. It is so powerful and real that I can see a lot of what happens in this story happening in the future when it comes to computers and the loss of social interaction. The movie is touching, painful, real, honest, extremely funny and heartbreaking. It washed all over me, immersing me in it's world, making me experience feelings almost no other movie has ever done. It has everything, it will make you think and what incredible conversations will come from people who see this. "Her" is a masterpiece in writing, filmmaking and in making us confront our feelings when dealing with matters of the heart.
P.S. I kept thinking a lot about Stanley Kubrick after seeing "HER". Kubrick would have loved this story but Kubrick would have dreamed about having a screenplay this amazing when he was alive. "HER" is the best movie of 2013!