Director Spike Jonze has his legion of fans and they are precious and passionate. He is the King of the Quirk having crafted films like Being John Malkovic, Adaptation and Where the Wild Things Are. Despite the fact that he's only done 4 films in his entire 14-year-old career, they are each so unique that when he releases a new one people rightfully take notice. It also doesn't hurt that he's responsible for some of the greatest music videos of all time for groups like The Beastie Boys, Weezer and Fatboy Slim. It's been my expierence that you either love something he's done or absolutely hate it and that's why Her is so perplexing because I don't feel either way about it.
The film follows Joaquin Phoenix back from his blackhole performance art he pulled off a few years ago as a man going through a divorce and falling in love...with his computer, voiced by Scarlette Johansson. No, this isn't Siri; the movie takes place in the future and this is an Operating System or O.S. that is far more advanced than anything we have today. It learns fast, it feels emotion and helps you with everything you need. I know this sounds weird but you accept it from the very first minutes of dialogue between the two. It's actually pretty amusing and funny.
What the film is really about though is love and the complications that come with it as you journey through a relationship. Phoenix is in the final stages of his marriage and the new stages with his OS at the same time. Jonze, who wrote Her as well, has a lot to say about the subject matter and almost all of it is profound. There are moments and monologues that bring you to tears because it hits you right in the feels and you think, "yeah, I remember feeling that way" or "that's the way I feel right now." It's poetic and beautiful...but it's mostly about his computer.
That's where I have a hard time sinking my teeth in because it's almost like Jonze wasn't satisfied with just making a movie explaining the thoughts he has on love and its complications. That's been done to death and I don't blame him for thinking outside the box as he almost always does. However, making it a weird story about a guy in love with his computer and how almost everyone around him accepts that as relatively normal is what makes Phoenix's character an arm's legnth away from the audience at all times. It's hard to fully emerse yourself in a character that seems so unrelatable at times.
Absolutely none of that is to the discredit of Phoenix or Johansson, for that matter. Both deliver spot-on performances that emote saddness and joy without ever using the physical tools that most actors have at their disposal. It's impressive in the way that actors who perform against CGI characters do but in Her it seems more genuine because it's not a monster, it's a cell phone-looking thing. Amy Adams and Rooney Mara (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) also give performances of note, although Adams' character seems shoe horned in for the sake of having a real person Phoenix can talk to so the story feel more legit.
LIke almost all of Jonze's movies, you have to sit with Her for a few days after seeing it. When the final seconds pass by you find yourself sitting in the theater thinking that you just watched something so deep that you have to love it but the more you think about it the more you think it's just like any other love story that you've seen a thousand times but here it's got a pinch of quirk added to it because...well....because why the hell not? If that sounds like it might be your cup of tea, then have at it and I hope you decide you like it after you're done thinking about it a few days after it ends. At the very least it'll make you want to talk to Siri more.