What happens when man falls in love with machine?
That is the central premise of "Her," the quirky futuristic romance from the brilliant mind of Spike Jonze.
Jonze employs Joaquin Phoenix as his male lead Theodore, who, in a nearly perfect futuristic world, finds love in the strangest of things: a Siri-like computerized personality. This is Samantha, the titular "her," who is silkily voiced by Scarlett Johansson, so we can't exactly blame Theodore for falling in love with it, erm, her.
Jonze, Phoenix, and Johansson are critical darlings, but does the electronic romance compute with critics? We find out what they're saying about the film, which opens Wednesday (December 18).
Phoenix At His Most Relatable
"The character's constant vulnerability sometimes forces Phoenix towards an affected delivery that recalls Sean Penn's oft-lampooned performance in 'I Am Sam,' but Phoenix's ability to ground Theodore in an almost pathological openheartedness ensures that he's never more pathetic than he is relatable. Moreover, his wide-eyed nature excuses the film's tendency to speak its themes, as Theodore doesn't need to just experience these things but also to know them, voicing his various epiphanies about love like he's finally clued in to something the rest of the world naturally understands." — David Ehrlich, Film.com
Scarlett Is A Seductive, Sensitive Siri
"Johansson, who replaced Samantha Morton as the computer voice after initial shooting was completed, gives a rendition as intimate and throaty as a Patti Page ballad; any Theodore would fall for her, without knowing that she looks like ... Scarlett Johansson. She's seductive and winning whether whispering encouragement to her beau or joining him in self-doubt. 'I don't like who I am right now,' she says, a modern analysand in Wonderland. "I need some time to think." — Richard Corliss, Time
Jonze Creates A Beautiful But Lonely Future
"Not least among Jonze's achievements here is his beautifully imagined yet highly plausible vision of a near-future Los Angeles (exact year unspecified), where subways and elevated trains have finally supplanted the automobile, and where a vast urban center crowded with skyscrapers sprawls out from downtown in every direction (a clever amalgam of location shooting in L.A. and Pudong, China). Just a few months after 'Elysium' foretold an Angel City beset by enviro-pocalypse and class warfare, Jonze cuts the other way, envisaging a society where green living has triumphed and most of the world's (or at least America's) social maladies seem to have been remedied — save, that is, for an epidemic of loneliness." — Scott Foundas, Variety
Computers Don't Make Such Strange Bedfellows
"And it is romantic: Theodore and Samantha click together as twin souls, not caring that one soul is no more than a digital swarm. Sad, kooky, and daunting in equal measure, 'Her' is the right film at the right time. It brings to full bloom what was only hinted at in the polite exchanges between the astronaut and HAL, in '2001: A Space Odyssey,' and, toward the end, as Samantha joins forces with like minds in cyberspace, it offers a seductive, nonviolent answer to Skynet, the system in the 'Terminator' films that attacked its mortal masters. We are easy prey, not least when we fall in love." — Anthony Lane, The New Yorker
A Poignant Look At Human Nature
"In contrast to the hard shininess of so many science-fiction movies, 'Her' looks muted, approachable and vividly tactile, from Theodore's wide-open face to the diffused lighting and the ravishingly lovely sherbet palette splashed with mellow yellows, tranquil tangerines and coral pinks. This is a movie you want to reach out and caress, about a man who, like everyone else around him in this near future, has retreated from other people into a machine world. In 'Her,' the great question isn't whether machines can think, but whether human beings can still feel." — Manohla Dargis, The New York Times