Review: Oscar-nominated 'Her' is heartbreaking

By Fred Hawson

Posted at Feb 27 2014 12:44 PM | Updated as of Feb 27 2014 09:25 PM

"Her" has a near-futuristic concept that may already be happening now. Theodore works for an online service writing beautiful made-to-order letters for people. He is currently undergoing a bitter divorce from his wife, and is very lonely. He has acquired a new operating system for his computer with whose female voice he feels an intense bond. Theo falls in love with this operating system named Samantha.

Joaquin Phoenix gives us another one of his quirky performances of Theo, a quiet sensitive man we would probably label as creepy when we meet him in real life. He makes this strange unlikely situation likely with his touching portrayal of loneliness. We feel his grief and longing.

Amy Adams shucks her glamorous "American Hustle" gowns here to play Theo's nerdy friend Amy, with whom he shares his thoughts. Her refreshing normality is a welcome relief from the deep moodiness of this film.

Rooney Mara plays his estranged wife Catherine, who was bewildered that her husband was already that deeply withdrawn from human relationships. She looks and acts nothing here like her Lisbeth Salander character (from "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") which brought her an Oscar nomination and A-list stardom.

For me though, the performance of the film was not even visible, but only heard. Scarlett Johansson gives us one of the performances of her career as the thoroughly delightful and sensual voice of Samantha. All those cute inflections and infectious laughter brings Samantha to vivid life. That scene when Sam talks to Theo's five-year old daughter was such a precious moment. A film like this will only work if we believe that a man can actually fall in love with Samantha. The vibrant way Johansson breathes life into Samantha, we do.

I only knew director Spike Jonze from one other time with another bizarre film called "Being John Malkovich" which I really enjoyed. "Her" is more meditative and contemplative than that first film, but he succeeds to create an atmosphere of romance in what may seem to be a soulless concept on paper.

As writer, Jonze used words which were very poetic, even bordering on mushy. There are many quotable romantic lines here which lovers will be borrowing in days to come.

It may seem all absurd, but if you think about it, it really is not. We are now already all deeply bound to our computers and phones in one way or the other. As it is, actual personal human interaction is already being compromised by our dependence on technology. This film will make you reflect and reassess your own attachments to your gadgets vis a vis the people around you who love you. 8/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."