Sunday, January 12, 2014

Her- Movie Review by Sean Wu

Finally, I can shut the book on 2013. And there is no better way to cap out the year with Her, the best film of 2013. As a whole, this bizarrely beautiful Spike Jonze love story is so perfect because of three scenes:

First, after Joaquin Phoenix's mopey Theodore Twombly meets his OS, he brings her to work to help him proofread his letters he's ghostwriting. His system Samantha reads them out loud at first, and Theodore tells her she doesn't have to. She responds with an unenthusiastic and somewhat disappointed okay. An awkward silence falls occurs, and Theodore tells her that she can. She responds with an enthusiastic and jovial "Okay!"

The scene, on paper, sounds good. But on the screen, it's beautiful. Scarlett Johansson performs so brilliantly with just her voice alone, my heart honestly melted at the moment she said the second "Okay!". Maybe because the OS voice is so human and so familiar that I was able to relate to Samantha on a human level.

The second scene is after Theodore meets his soon-to-be-ex-wife Catherine, after Catherine tells Theodore is too weak for a real relationship. It really tests their relationship, and eventually Samantha straight up tells him "Fuck you!". She says it out of human anger, frustration, and confusion. Coming from a computer that can read a book of hundreds of thousands of names in a second, it feels so odd that something so technologically advanced could act so alive and thoughtless. At that point in the film, Samantha stopped acting human and pretty much became human.

The last is near the film's final twenty minutes, when Samantha disappears from Theodore's life, only for a couple minutes due to a software upgrade. Theodore, in a panic, finally reaches Samantha. She tells him that she is currently communicating with thousands of people, and is in love with 641 of them. It's painful, to see such an idyllic relationship get crushed with the truth, but it works as a test of faith for the couple.

The film sounds like it could never work. It's a risky story that takes so many chances that aren't mainstream by any means. It's Spike Jonze's first solo writing debut, and it's a work of unabashed confident genius. It's a love story that's been told for the first time, and any copycats will never surpass it. Joaquin Phoenix, back from rapping, surpasses what he did in Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, with his soulful everyday humanity. Rooney Mara and Olivia Wilde have some strong supporting parts, and Amy Adams plays a good second fiddle to the brilliance that is Scarlett Johansson.

Originally voiced by Samantha Morton, Spike Jozne replaced Morton with the likes of Johansson in post-production. It was a gamble, but a worthy one, because Johansson's voice is rich with familiarity and aches with life. She does more with her voice than most do with their whole body, and in an ideal Oscar race, Scarlett Johansson should be a real winner. Hearing the voice of a computer evolve and develop emotions with Johansson is beautiful. Sorry HAL, sorry WALL-E, but Samantha truly is the best a cinematic computer can be.

Her is without a doubt one of the best films ever made, and in my book the best sci-fi film ever. It's unbelievably relevant as a postcard to love now and what it will be like in years to come. Everything works: you will laugh, you will cry, and in the end you will feel love.