Distributed By: Warner Bros. Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
The minute I saw the promos for Her I remember thinking, "What a weird storyline." A man, lonely and distraught about his failed marriage, falls in love with a female-voiced operating system. Who falls in love with their computer? I can see falling in love with an android or a cyborg...at least that would look human, but...I suppose someone can fall in love with a voice...maybe. Suffice it to say that I didn't see Her in the theater, but, after hearing all of the critical acclaim about this film, I decided it would be worth renting.
Set in the future, Her stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly. During the day, Theodore is quite adept at knowing just the right things to put down on paper for other people. He is one of the star employees at a business that sends out heartfelt handwritten letters. The business is perfect for those who want to say meaningful things, but just don't know how to put their feelings into words. For some reason, Theodore finds it easy to write those words for other people, but can't seem to express himself all that well. That is especially apparent in his relationship with co-workers and friends and in his failed marriage, which we see in flashbacks.
Lonely and tired of his life, Theodore decides he is in need of some organizational skills. He signs up with a new company offering up Operating Systems that are customized to the user. As soon as he "meets" her, Theodore finds himself fascinated by his OS, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Being a new OS, Samantha finds everything about life to be exciting and new, something that appeals to Theodore and his forgotten sense of adventure. He begins cultivating his friendship with Samantha and finds himself becoming more outgoing and open in his relationships with others, including old college friend Amy (Amy Adams).
Trusting in this newfound relationship with Samantha, one that is mutually expressed as love, Theodore decides that he is ready to sign his divorce papers. But meeting with his childhood sweetheart, Catherine (Olivia Wilde), to seal the deal brings back some very hard memories and some harsh words, especially when he tells her about his relationship with Samantha. Can the doubts her words bring to the surface be enough to destroy Theodore's newfound happiness? Or will he realize how incredible the idea of falling in love with an operating system really sounds?
Now, at first glance, Her sounds a little ludicrous, but I have known people to fall in love with someone just by talking to them on the phone. Sure, they saw pictures of this person, but it wasn't their looks they fell in love with - it was their voice, their thoughts, their hopes and dreams that made them fall so hard. Of course, eventually, they got to meet the person they had fallen in love with. Some relationships worked out. Some didn't. But each time, they got to meet the person. But, in Her, there is no person behind the voice - it's just an incredibly self-aware operating system.
And yet, if you pretend that it isn't just a computer operating system, one can definitely see how Theodore falls in love with Samantha just by talking to her and sharing inner thoughts, hopes and desires. This is what you are supposed to do when falling in love. What is unique in this situation is that Theodore has already been in this situation with a real woman and failed miserably. Samantha helps him learn how to love completely and to be honest about his feelings, something he wasn't able to do with Catherine. We see how Samantha actually helps Theodore become more by refusing to accept less in life and going after what he wants.
Of course, as an audience, we instinctually know that this situation can't be completely fulfilling, but it comes as a shock how the inevitable ending actually takes place. Some will see the ending of this film as a bit of a let down, but I saw it as inevitable and the building blocks for a new beginning for Theodore.
I especially enjoyed the parallel relationships shown in this film, such as Amy's relationship with her overbearing, opinionated soon-to-be-ex-husband (Matt Letscher); her friendship with her own female operating system; and co-worker Paul's (Chris Pratt) relationship with his lawyer girlfriend Tatiana (Laura Kai Chen). It was nice to have other relationships to compare with that of Theodore and Samantha's.
Believe it or not, as strange as the concept sounds, I found Her to be an incredibly romantic film with a sad, but hopeful ending well worth seeing. I credit this to Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. Both had very difficult jobs, but at least we could see the expressions on Phoenix' face to tell what he was feeling. Johansson had to insert emotion into every word she said, whether it be wonderment, fear, love, anxiety, anger, all of it had to be heard in her voice to make the audience understand what she was "feeling." Incredible acting and a strange, but likeable storyline make Her a great romantic film.