Director Spike Jonze has done some interesting work, but please do not compare this film to either Being John Malkovich (1999) or Adaptation (2002).
Spike Jonze’s Her is a contradiction on multiple levels. More to the point, it has a wildly innovative script that masks a movie fundamentally lacking in entertainment. Rather than enjoying it, you simply have to endure it.
Quite frankly, some clever men in Hollywood seem to be suggesting that women are no longer necessary for a meaningful personal relationship. First there was Joseph Gordon Levitt, who wrote and starred in last year’s Don Jon. Playing a regular, modern-day New Jersey boy, he and his friends “come” (no pun intended) to realize that repeated masturbation while watching pornography is actually more preferable than being forced to accommodate the needs and desires of a good woman.
With Her, we now have a basically likeable but socially lame guy who is just fine with living with a doting computer voiced by Scarlett Johansson. On the other hand, since Ms. Johansson also starred in Don Jon, maybe both Mr. Gordon Levitt and Mr. Jonze have a secret that they should be sharing with the rest of us.
For all the praise directed at Joaquin Phoenix as an actor, I find him a bit tedious. While he has demonstrated his talents in such films as Hotel Rwanda (2004), Walk the Line (2005) and Reservation Road (2007), he was completely overhyped in last year’s critically praised The Master. Put another way, he was as eminently forgettable in The Master as he was memorable playing Commodus in Gladiator (2000).
In Her, he is a laconic professional letter writer going through a divorce from a distant wife played by the talented Rooney Mara. Floundering after leaving a woman who was a childhood friend, he is basically a whiner who could find no one to care for except a female voice lurking in a phone that he often carried in his shirt pocket.
Though the script could very well win an Oscar this year (ironically, I have picked it to do just that), it reduces women to little more than needy lightweights looking for little more than a way to get laid. This happens both to a dinner date of Mr. Phoenix as well as a young woman brought to his apartment to play the physical role of his computer darling, and both roles are little more than a profound embarrassment.
While Amy Adams plays a small role as a friend of Mr. Phoenix going through her own domestic troubles, she is wrestling with a personal life that is equally undistinguished. She is little more than a bedraggled friend of his, and it is hard to see what she finds remotely interesting about him.
Ironically, Ms. Adams had a small role in last year’s The Master, and I thought her performance in that film was her most appalling in an otherwise fabulous career. Though I doubt if she will prevail at this year’s Oscar for her sterling role in American Hustle, at least she was recognized by the Golden Globes.
Reduced to its core, Her throws a simple question at every man, namely what if the girl of your dreams wasn’t a human being, but only a girl’s voice? What if the love of your life was nothing more than a gorgeous robotic mannequin with a computer created intense intellect, not to mention sense of humor?
As with a number of praised films this year, Her lacks a single character that you would either date or befriend. Imagine that you join Mr. Phoenix and his date for dinner, only discovering that she was a cell phone that he placed by her plate. While I would undoubtedly drink a great deal of wine, I would still want him institutionalized.