This is another quirky Oscar-Bait movie, although it’s also a Spike Jonze movie, so be forewarned. If you like Spike Jonze movies, you will probably like this one. If you are saying, who is Spike Jonze?, let me see if I can clear that up for you. He started out by making music videos, and helping to create JackAss. He worked with Fatboy Slim (the Weapon of Choice video is his) and the Beastie Boys. His first full length movie was Being John Malkovich, which was written by Charlie Kaufman (incidentally, Adaptation featuring Nicolas Cage playing Charlie Kaufman and his imaginary twin brother is also a Jonze movie, seriously). He also did Where the Wild Things Are. If you haven’t seen Being John Malkovich, I’m not even sure how to describe it. An aspiring puppeteer finds a strange portal on a ½ floor of a building, yes - it's half a floor. This portal also you to enter the mind of John Malkovich…yes, that John Malkovich. At first you are just observing, but if you hang out long enough, you can figure out how to control or take over John Malkovich. That’s bizarre enough, but then what happens when Malkovich himself enters the portal is something else entirely.
I can’t say I enjoyed that movie, it’s exceptionally weird, there’s way too much puppeting (pupeteering?) and Jonze seems to revel in making the majority of the cast look as bad as possible – I mean, there are some really bad wigs in that movie. I only bring that up because when I first saw the trailer for Her, I thought to myself, “Wow, that is some awful looking hair, it reminds me of Being John Malkovich”.
Her takes place in the not so distant future. Theodore is a lonely writer who works at a place that writes emotional letters for people. So if you need to write a letter, but want it to be really emotional and beautiful, you hire them to do it. He is going through a divorce, and is a bit aimless. He buys a new Operating System for his computer that is essentially a fully functioning and evolving A.I. He then proceeds to date, fall in love with, and have a relationship with, the Operating System, which has a female voice and calls itself Samantha.
Yes, it is a bit bizarre, but you can also see how this could be a possibility in the future. As Theodore and Samantha’s relationship progresses, they go out to dinner, they have a lovely date on a beach, they double date with friends, and even have fights. Almost everyone around Theodore acknowledges that the relationship is legitimate – apparently quite a few people are dating OS-s; almost everyone except for his ex-wife, when they meet up to finalize the divorce.
The movie is too long, and really boring, and bizarre – again, if you like Spike Jonze’s movies, you’ll like this. The performances are really good, and that is what pulls you into the movie. I did hear someone say that without Phoenix and Johansson, this wouldn't be the movie it is. I agree, those two performances take what would have been just weird and make it touching and interesting.
- Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore with a very lonely sincerity that was almost off-putting. He is exceptionally sincere, and really just wants to heal the hole in his heart that losing his wife created. Phoenix is always interesting, and does a great job in this. He does make you root for him, but he also gets a little creepy to the point where I wanted to yell at the screen, “Stop hooking up with your computer!” He has been nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance, so I would assume an Oscar nom is also a possibility. Also, it's still weird to see him and think - he was that kid in the movie Parenthood.
- Chris Pratt inexplicably is in this movie as a co-worker at Theodore’s office. He seems to just be playing Chris Pratt, but since I enjoy Chris Pratt, that works for me. I especially liked when he asked Theodore to bring his girlfriend on a double date how he did not bat an eye when Theodore responded that she was an OS.
- Rooney Mara plays the ex-wife Catherine. She really only has the one scene and some flashbacks, so who knows if she was good or not. She does try to bring some reality crashing down on Theodore, but it didn’t really work, but kudos for the try!
- Amy Adams plays Amy – Theodore’s friend. She and her husband (boyfriend? I guess I’m not sure) set Theodore up with a friend of theirs on a date that goes well, but then doesn’t. Adams plays a woman working on a documentary who wants more than she has, and starts a friendship with an OS, so understands Theodore’s relationship. The endpoint for she and Theodore is a little predictable, but since it was what I wanted to happen, I was pretty happy with that.
- Matt Letscher plays Charles, who is with Amy, and friendly with Theodore. He have very few scenes but was entertaining while he was around.
- Olivia Wilde has almost a cameo as the blind date.
- Scarlett Johansson plays Samantha, and there was a lot of talk of her getting nominated for this voice-only performance. Personally, I think it would be a crime to give her a nom for this when Andy Serkis has yet to be nominated for any of the amazing work he has done, but I will admit that she does a great job. She has a lot of varying emotions to convey with only her voice, and it is very impressive.
All in all, it is an interesting movie, but it is a little boring. I thought the ending was inevitable, but well done. I’m not sure I liked it, but I’m glad I saw it.
5 out of 10. Again – well done, just not my style. Gained points for Chris Pratt. Lost points for the high waisted pants, boy, I really hope that is not a style choice that we are headed for in the future. Gained points for the bitchy little alien in the game that Theodore plays voiced by Spike Jonze, Lost points for suggesting that this is where we are heading – as Theodore walks with Samantha, he notices that everyone is talking on their device, presumably to their OS, that they are also presumably in a relationship with. Yikes.
Bonus Video 1: Weapon of Choice – brilliant.
Bonus Video 2: Spike Jonze in a Fatboy Slim video
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews