Spike Jonze has always been one to make intelligent, funny and thought-provoking films, and from the trailers it was plain to see that ‘Her’, the tale of a man who falls in love with an AI in the near future, is no different. Boasting a very strong cast that stars Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson and features the likes of Amy Adams and Rooney Mara, Jonze certainly has a wonderful cast to work with, and he ensures that he makes the most of them with a script that rarely fails.
Phoenix carries the character of Theodore Twombly brilliantly, embodying an introverted and lonely writer whose primary work comes from writing love letters for those less able to express themselves in as romantic a way as he can. His gentle facial expressions and profound delivery makes every line that comes out of Theodore’s mouth mean something, even if it isn’t something you always agree with, and Phoenix makes sure to bring out his weaknesses, which are suitably annoying to us but show that Twombly is consumed by anxiety. All that, however, is part of his humanity, and this idea of humanity is wonderfully offset by Scarlett Johansson’s Samantha, whose struggle to be recognised as someone that can feel human emotion just as strongly as any human is an incredibly pivotal part of the film. Indeed, Samantha is beguiling and intelligent, funny and sweet, and it’s very easy to see why Twombly is prepared to endure any potential stigma from society and have a relationship with an AI that is just as capable a lover and friend as anyone.
Jonze has always been one to invoke philosophical quandaries and to explore them in a thought provoking manner, and in ‘Her’ he addresses many of these, our worries about the nature of AI and the way they can interact with us, together with the nature of their intellect and whether we are merely stepping stones on their intellectual journey. Phoenix, Johansson and Adams particularly excel in these conversations, and it’s arguable that they are the best parts of the film.
While ‘Her’ is by no means a completely original idea, indeed the main premise of the film is one that appears in various guises in the sci-fi romance genre, it’s Jonze’s take on it all that elevates it above average. He creates a world that’s realistic on an emotional level and rendered to a stunning level of detail together with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, making it shimmer on screen as we ponder the film’s amusing asides and poignant messages. It’s true that there’s a sense that ‘Her’ knows that it’s important, but it earns that right to call itself that and stands up well on its own two feet. Perhaps it’s not Jonze’s most innovative film, but certainly another success that resonates with its audience in much the same way as his masterpieces ‘Being John Malkovich’ and ‘Adaptation’ do.
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