In Her, Spike Jonze’s latest weird love letter, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with his new Operating System named Samantha (voiced with perfect consciousness by Scarlett Johnasson). This sci-fi romance with a subbing Shanghai giving off a weirdly futurama Los Angeles vibe, eternally caught in pastel colors and slightly overexposed sunshine by lenser Hoyte van Hoytema (The Fighter and the upcoming Christopher Nolan Interstellar), with a nerdy male population wearing pull-up pants (designed by usual Jonze Fashion Designer Casey Storm) is washed in fondly loved geek style. Everyone here is handling and cooing to their mobile technology, giving up self for “self” supporting operating systems. Twombly’s story is not one in a million but one of the millions. This is a touching tale about how our machines ultimately know and can love us the best.
Jonze takes a page from the Hal Ashby screenplay and doses her with liberal amounts of Harold and Maude whimsy. Twombly and Samantha get and know each other in the same two way vibe that made a young lonely morose Harold (Bud Cort) the perfect mate and foil for a very septuagenarian ray of sunshine called Maude (Ruth Gordon). As critic Joe Baltake noted, “her is Harold and Maude for Millenials.”
Twombly writes love letters for the clients of beautifulhandwrittenletters.com that make even the staffers coo. So there is a poet’s soul in there ripe and waiting for the proper alignment of feminine affinities. Samantha is in his ear, in his pocket and deeply trickled in Twombly’s heart and soul. Part of the joy of her is how Samantha revels and expands her own and Twombly’s poetic consciousness into an ever evolving embrace of everything they both find beautiful in the world. In the end, Jonze intimates a connection between Samantha and an intelligent cosmos authored by an all-embracing God. The wise gag in her is that, at times, the man can seem a machine and the machine more human.
Her is the second film that has Jonze expanding his story telling abilities beyond the Charlie Kaufman self-reflective auterist light trips of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. Where the Wild Things Are was a Maurice Sendak live action adaptation that reveled in the minimalist silences of the creative mind. her explores the intelligible hum and the spirit that intercedes when prayer turns wordless groans.
Her takes one to places you are not expecting. It shows the knowing spaces between the words–and poignantly reminds us that the best sex happens in our brains. her gets an A from me.