Following a recently separated, supposed to be divorced, Theodore in not so distant future LA would be an engaging film on its own given the excellent futurist script from Jonze, but he uses this beautiful template for an engaging love story between a man and a computer (Samantha) that’s as real and grounded as any other attempt at romance I have seen put on film. The film feels like a more positive cousin to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, exploring the many delicate and intricate angles of romance and love, all spun through Jonze’s enlightened vision.
The kindness of Jonze’s future is heartening and the lack of cynicism is essential to letting the viewer settle into this reality. The film’s concept could easily come off as a farce and played for absurdest comedy, but the extrapolation of ideas and where our future might be heading (in more ways than just our OS relationships) feels true. The awkward social interaction, the acceptance of AI and the advancement it makes on its own, human’s underestimation of being surpassed by artificial life, an AI’s struggle with its own reality, I could go on, but Jonze covers most of his bases. Jonze captures the potential wonder of our technological future all while subtly reminding us that the best the world can offer might be sitting right next to you.
The romance between Theodore and Samantha is just as compelling as the world Jonze has built and that is due to the great performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson in their respective roles. Both make you believe they could fall in love with one another, no matter how improbable you think that reality might be, as we feel their joy, pain and hope every step of the way. Johansson deserves a ton of credit for being so compelling with only her voice to lean on, but she creates a fully fledged character that is essential to the film’s success. Phoenix is just as compelling on his side of the relationship and disappears into the part of Theodore as we’ve come to expect from him. Both of them, and their relationship, have so many levels and angles they can come from it keeps the romance alive even if you can sort of see where it is all heading. It’s Theodore’s journey that is the main thrust of the picture, he learns a lesson we can all take heart in, and watching Phoenix navigate that is one of the year’s best performances. The supporting cast is dotted with some excellent players as well, with Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, Laura Kai Chen and Brian Cox all making worthy contributions.
The production design/art direction, score, editing, effects and cinematography, all deserve to be singled out as well, Jonze and his craftsmen created a gorgeous film. Owen Pallett & Arcade Fire’s work on the score is some of the best this year and better than their 2013 album if you ask me. The production design and art direction are intuitive, warm and inviting, while still feeling futuristic. Same goes for the cinematography and editing which pull you in and never want to let you go from the story. The future effects are also seamlessly integrated and realized as there was not one thing that stood out as far fetched or not possible.
Jonze’s first solo effort as a writer/director is a triumph and is one of the strongest singular visions to be thrown up on the screen in some time. Her feels unlike anything you’ve ever really seen before, yet you feel right at home with it from the first frame. Phoenix and Johansson deliver a fantastic romance while Jonze surrounds them with a world that is just as intricate and engaging. A can’t miss film that I wanted to just rewind and watch again right there in the theater.
Her is an A.