Some movies it’s good to read a bit about before seeing them, to get some idea of what to expect, to understand the context with which to best understand what you’re about to see. Other movies it’s best to just see them.
Her is one of those movies it’s best to just see.
The only context one needs to jump in is to be an adult (of any degree of maturity) in the year 2013 (or ’14 or however long the film’s topical, which I expect it will be at least until it becomes a true story at some point 20-40 years from now). It might also help to have some familiarity with writer-director Spike Jonze, how his style has evolved from his early Charlie Kaufman collaborations into something similarly weird but more straightforward and how his divorce from Sofia Coppola has informed the content of both his Where the Wild Things Are adaptation and this most recent film, but that’s not necessary to enjoy the film.
If you need convincing to see it, I’d repeat what almost everyone else who’s seen the movie is saying and tell you it’s the most romantic movie I’ve seen in some time and one of the best damn films of the year, but I’m afraid too much hype might hurt it. It’s brilliant, yes, but it’s also fairly small and low-key and overblown expectations might hurt a movie that hits in rather unexpected ways.
Still with me? OK, I’ll talk a bit about what it’s not. It’s not technophobic or particularly moralizing. Its vision of the future is satirical, but it’s not pessimistic (except, perhaps, when it comes to men’s fashion). It’s not Lars and the Real Girl; “Guy falls in love with computer system” might sound like a similar plot on paper to “guy falls in love with doll”, but the big difference is that this computer system is capable of love back, and thanks to Scarlett Johansson’s amazing vocal performance*, we kind of fall in love with her too. If anything, certain Doctor Who episodes might make for a better comparison than Lars (you’ll get what I mean when you see it).
It is funny in some parts, sad in others, constantly thought-provoking and always involving. Watching it I had guesses where it was going, some of which turned out accurate, but how it got there was surprising and wonderful. I don’t wish to spoil the movie’s surprises, so go see it. With someone you love, perhaps. Just please, I don’t care how smart its OS is, turn off your damn cell phones when you’re in the theater!
*As the film’s sound designer explained to me when he visited my school, some credit should be given to Samantha Morton, the original voice of the AI (who’s interestingly enough still named “Samantha”; Amy Adams’ character in the film is also just named “Amy”), who was dragged around in a sound-proof box on set while speaking via microphone into Joaquin Phoenix’s earpiece. She was recast in post and having heard Johansson’s performance I have no qualms with that decision, but given Phoenix is in fact reacting to her performance she deserves some credit in developing both of their characters.
P.S. How the hell is http://www.beautifulhandwrittenletters.com/ not a real website yet? Seriously, viral marketing fail, Warner Bros.!