Her (2013) (R)

"Her" is a work of deep solemnity and terrible loneliness. It's a smart movie that carries each side plot to its fullest extent, stretching to the breaking point. It is gut-wrenchingly emotional and somewhat placating by the time the last frame has rolled around.
Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a man whose life has started to crumble around him. His divorce is entering its final stages, though he childishly refuses to sign the papers, and his love life has cooled off to the point where its almost frigid. His job seems increasingly pointless, but it helps him vent his emotions somehow. He writes intimate letters for those who can't write them themselves. He pours his heart and soul into other people's lives.
Theodore is a little distant. His separated wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) seems to hold most of the attention in his head. He cannot rid himself of their memories.
Excessively alone, Theodore spends some of his nights having sexy phone calls with odd women. One morning, when it finally dawns on Theodore that something is going to have to change, he gets introduced to the OS1 operating system. It will act as a companion and help him through his day-to-day routine. When the system cuts on, it's a sexy voice that answers and introduces her-cyber-self as Samantha (Scarlett Johansson).
If you've seen any of the five bazillion commercials for "Her", you know how the story begins to unfold. Samantha bridges the gap between extreme emotional isolation and a life better lived. She and Theodore begin to fall in love.
The questions, comments, situations that arise from this love feel completely genuine which is one reason why Spike Jonze stands head-and-shoulders above the rest of his contemporaries in audacity alone.
Yet, with all of Jonze's movies, I feel a little bit of a disconnect because of their emotional power. "Being John Malkovich" presented the idea of becoming someone else because you were unsatisfied with yourself. "Adaptation" was all about the horrible pressure of the creative process. "Where the Wild Things Are" was escapism in the truest sense of the word. "Her" is probably the director's most intimate work, his most heartfelt, his most achingly poetic...and that's also the reason that I had a problem connecting with it.
The movie looks fantastic and the hipster crowd will love to see the mustaches on both Phoenix and Chris Pratt. The music is twangy and beautiful and the camera shots never cease to amaze. As much as the movie is emotional, it is visual as well.
But perhaps I find it too emotional, I find it too reaching, I feel broken afterwards.
The cutesy-cutesy humor side of the movie is opposed by the deep and entrenching bitter emotions. It's not a movie that you can feel good about or one that you can hate.
As good as all the acting is, which is is fantastic, Amy Adams seems to be the one actor who holds it all together with a fairly minimal role.
Winning the Oscar for original screenplay, it comes as no surprise that the dialogue of the movie is faultless and feels genuine beyond itself.
"Her" is a work of actual genius, if misguided at times. It does have its hitches, but it recovers smoothly. It's not the techno-human relationship that I have a problem with, it's the fact that life is too short. The movie reaffirms this thought again and again; but doesn't give any answer to the conundrum and plows into more hipster-quasi-depressive shots. Then again, how could it give an answer to the meaning of life?
"Her" is a romance and a meditation on life. It's clumsy and charming and a movie that I don't think I'd want to subject myself to ever again. It hits each emotion so hard, it left me breathless.

Score: ★★★
For another point of view, read KJ Craig's review: Her

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