Waiting for Intermission: Review of "Her"


Audiences know director Spike Jonze for his bizarre films. Those who watched “Being John Malkovich” can attest to this fact. As a filmmaker, he takes themes from the postmodern world and brings it to a mind-blowing conclusion.

Jonze continues this strong tradition with the new film “Her”, centered on loner Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix). After separating from his ex-wife, he develops a relationship with an operating system Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). As the relationship evolves, Theodore learns about the intimate and emotional components of human nature. Complete with stunning cinematography and astounding acting, “Her” examines the anxieties and beautiful nuances forming the human connection.

Success of the film relies on its basis in a grounded reality. Emotional attachment can only be maintained if audiences can believe in the world being portrayed. Visual and contextual elements create this grounded future world.

Audiences notice sprawling shots of the city skyline, panoramic outside Theodore’s apartment. The metallic texture of the buildings reminds audiences of the standard future setting, gleaming and otherworldly. Yet these buildings do not stretch into the atmosphere, nor do hover cars or teleportation devices dominate the skyline. Subtle technological changes mark a natural progression into the future.

Jonze envisions a future our children and grandchildren could potentially inhabit. Even Theodore’s job of writing emotional letters for those who cannot express themselves are just the natural evolution of Hallmark cards. This realistic world offers a platform to understand and ultimately accept the love between Theodore and Samantha.

Audiences also view this transition through Theodore’s flexibility toward talking about Samantha to the public, leading to an inevitable double date with him and a human couple. Some scenes will cause some seat lurching, particularly Theodore and Samantha’s sex scene and their date using a human female surrogate. However, these scenes capture Jonze constant break from the reality of the film. He finds opportunities to break the fourth wall, particularly through the musical transitions between scenes.

The musical score of the film seamlessly transforms into Samantha’s compositions, which she says represent the scene’s events. Jonze wants us to remain enchanted while inhabiting his grounded reality.

The film not only examines the logistics behind a relationship, but also analyzes Theodore’s inability to connect emotionally with those around him. Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of a man fearing the lonely expanse of life is simply fantastic. His pained desire to give language to his feelings provides a vessel for audiences to analyze their own anxieties.

Use of silent flashbacks reinforces this anxiety, as it forces audiences to give language to the emotions displayed on screen. Despite Phoenix’s acting command, the character of Amy, played by Amy Adams, hits the message home. In the middle of the film, Amy talks to Theodore about how overthinking things sews the seeds of our own self-doubt. People need to accept our emotions and strive to give voice to these emotions; otherwise thoughts could potentially cripple us into silence. Aside from the fresh portrayal of a strong female character, her monologue speaks to the purity of the human experience. Being open to connection involves risk, but eventual happiness outweighs these fears.

“Her” is an incredibly intelligent film examining our detached society through a post-structural lens. The wonderful messages of this film will stick with you long after leaving the theater.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5