It has actually been a few days since I saw Spike Jonze‘s Her but it’s been hard for me to figure out my feelings toward the film. I walked out satisfied on one level, and it certainly made me think throughout the film. As far as plot goes, it’s extremely simplistic – Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) writes letters for a living, has just been through a bad break up, then buys and subsequently falls in love with his new OS, or operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). It’s an unconventional plotline but also very uncomplicated, which means the focus is meant to be on other aspects of the film.
What it seems to ask of its viewers is to contemplate the world around them. It’s about love and loss and life – and the choices we make. But it is also about technology. Really, there are so many different themes and ideas that the film could be about depending on who is watching and at what point they are in their lives. In this way, I can really respect the writing – and it’s fair to note that I walked out of it wanting to read the screenplay. There were a lot of little pieces of the film that stood out to me as significant or interesting as far as an overall message goes, but they seem to piece together in multiple different ways to portray multiple different ideas. I read one article that called the film philosophical and that’s pretty accurate in my opinion – and that means that it isn’t a film for everyone. I talked to my brother shortly after seeing the film and he said he hated it, even turning it off after 40 minutes, because he thinks Twombly is an idiot to choose his OS over an attractive girl with whom he went on a blind date (Olivia Wilde). It is possible to look at just the basic plot of the film and dislike it because yes, Twombly is a bit of an idiot, especially when it comes to love and relationships – but aren’t we all sometimes?
I had heard a lot about Johansson’s work in this film ahead of seeing it, but I will admit that I’m not sure why they talked about her more than any of the others. Phoenix played an awkward and antisocial Twombly well, which is of no surprise as he has proven his acting abilities many times. And there’s Amy Adams as Twombly’s longtime friend Amy as well as Chris Pratt as Paul, who works with Twombly. There’s also an entertaining late-night chat between Twombly and a woman with the username SexyKitten (voiced by Kristen Wiig). There is an abundance of quirky characters in the film, each with their own flaws. I even enjoyed the little alien child (voiced by Jonze) in Twombly’s video game who has a mouth like a sailor.
Even with the acting and the credit I give to the ability of the screenplay to make viewers think about what they’re seeing and the world around them, it has a different effect and appeal to different people. If you’re looking for a good love story, don’t watch this movie despite the tagline stamped on all of the posters: “A Spike Jonze love story.” If you let it, it will make you think. If you want a movie that is straightforward, you probably will not enjoy Her very much. Considering its nomination for Best Picture at the Oscars this year, I wouldn’t give it my vote to win. With that said, it is a movie I would like to watch again once it’s out on Blu-ray.