Spike Jonze's 'sci-fi romance' is thoughtful, tender and bristles with invention
After his disappointing adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze returns in blazing form with the beguiling Her. Already being dubbed as a sci-fi/ romance, such simplification barely does justice to a story that feels both forward-looking and utterly contemporary.
Set in the very near future, in a pastel-coloured Los Angeles, it stars Joaquin Phoenix as the brilliantly-named Theodore ‘Ted’ Twombly, a lonely introvert heartbroken by his impending divorce to childhood sweetheart Catherine (Rooney Mara) – the papers for which he still can’t bring himself to sign. He spends his days shuttling between a high-rise apartment (where he immerses himself in videogames) and work, where he’s paid to compose letters on behalf of people too lazy to write to their loved ones. Everything changes, however, when he acquires a new operating system for his computer, OS1.
Voiced with seduction and wonder by Scarlett Johansson, this artificially intelligent entity calls herself Samantha, and soon goes from organising his inbox to becoming his friend, confidant and more. Before he knows what’s happening, Ted is falling for the charms of this virtual vixen, who is equally entranced by him and the world around her.
Raising a host of questions about how we interact with technology and each other, Her is an elegantly constructed piece that seamlessly interweaves drama, design and dialogue. Sneakily slicing in footage of Shanghai’s high-rises, Jonze’s vision of a future LA is like something from a queasy Gap commercial, but it works perfectly.
Phoenix and Johansson also deserve props for the virtual bond they build, and there’s credible support from Amy Adams as Ted’s friend and neighbour. Jonze’s first self-penned solo script, it may not boast the madcap genius of Being John Malkovich or Adaptation (his films written by Charlie Kaufman), but it’s thoughtful, tender and bristles with invention.
General release from Fri 14 Feb.