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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Her (2013)


If Scar-Jo was my computer, then yes, I’d consider it. Her, or Bea Arthur.

Somewhere in the not-too-distant future, L.A. writer Theodore Bwombly (Joaquin Phoenix) finds himself in a bit of a rut. After his wife (Rooney Mara) asked for him to sign the divorce papers, he’s been a bit slacking in terms of getting a move-on with that, his love life, or just getting out there and meeting new people in general. I guess you could consider him “antisocial”, although he does still hang-out and pal-around with an old friend of his (Amy Adams); but other than that, he’s practically all alone up in his big apartment, where he sits around, plays interactive video-games and even ends some nights with eventful bouts of late-night chats with complete and total strangers. This all changes once he discovers a new operating-system by the name “OS1″, which promises him “the closest thing he’ll ever get to a real, honest human-connection”. Theodore believes this, downloads the system and eventually, is graced with the presence of Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) who, at first, Theodore feels a bit odd with. Which, yes, is expected considering that she’s just a speaking-system that he just so happens to be stuck with, but over time, the two begin to grow closer as they help each other out in ways they never expected to, like in discovering life, love, the pursuit of happiness, and heck, even sex. So yep, it gets pretty crazy and passionate, but eventually, like most romances do, problems do arise, uncertainties are brought into the equation, and feelings are hurt; and a relationship with an operating-system doesn’t make that any further from happening. In fact, maybe even more likely to happen.

Must've been real bummed-out about not getting the role of Mario in the upcoming film-adaptation.

Must’ve been real bummed-out about not getting the role of Mario in the upcoming film-adaptation.

I know some of you may have already been lost at “human falls in love with operating-system”, and trust me, with anybody else behind this, I would have been too. However, this is not just directed, but written by Spike Jonze and from what I can tell you, the guy’s pretty damn amazing at what it is that he does, especially when it comes to making magic with something as odd and as unique as this. But considering that Charlie Kaufman isn’t around to lay-down the ground-work for him this time around, it makes you wonder: Can Jonze handle all of the pressure when it’s placed upon himself, or, does he simply fold and make this something that’s “too strange” for anybody to even like?

Well, for the most part, Jonze succeeds. And then some.

First things first, this movie would not work at all if it weren’t for the fact that Jonze himself was actually able to get us to believe the relationship that our main character Theodore has with his operating-system. It makes a slight bit of sense that someone as sad, lonely and clinically-depressed as Theo would actually have a relationship with somebody he wouldn’t have to see, touch or even impregnate in order to fall in love with, but it makes total sense why it is that he falls for her, and why it is that you actually want to see them together in the end, despite all of the obvious problems surrounding that outcome.

For instance, like what most relationships are based-on, is the way in which both companions actually do something for the betterment of the other. Theo allows Samantha to experience life in its finest, most complete-form; whereas Samantha allows Theodore someone he can vent-out to, be encouraged by, gain some insight from and most of all, actually connect with. Sure, she definitely is a computer when you get right down to it, but she’s more than just a bunch of data filled with numbers, codes and chips. She’s actually a “thing” that has feelings, emotions, wants, needs, pleasures, desires, dreams, ideas, insecurities, doubts, and anything else you could name that a normal, everyday human-being would have. The only difference here is that she’s an operating-system that you can talk to and engage with through a little speaker in your ear, or anywhere else.

In fact, I’m only going to say this now considering I’m already on a roll and I kind of want to get this out of the way, is that the problem I sometimes had with this movie was that it wasn’t always clear how Theo and others around him could constantly chat-it-up with Samantha, despite it obviously being clear that he needed an ear-piece in, in order to do so. I don’t know, maybe it was something that I missed, but once others could hear Samantha as perfectly and as understandably as Theo did, it kind of had me scratching my head. Didn’t bring this movie down an awful-lot, but did bother me a tad bit whenever it showed up.

Anyway, back to the good stuff, of which there is plenty more of!

Like I was saying though with the relationship between Samantha and Theodore, although it may clearly be an odd relationship between two, highly unlikely candidates, Jonze makes it work solely through the way in which he channels ordinary feelings, emotions and happenings that go on during any relationship, whether it be good ones, or bad ones. While doing this though, he also channels through the step-by-step process in which a relationship builds into being over time, which is something that surprised me the most in how honest, and sometimes heart-breaking it was to take note of.

At first, the relationship is blossoming with countless acts of sex during the day; plenty of late-night talks that go on and on about seemingly nothing; getting comfortable with another person to the point of where you think you know them from the inside, to the outside; aspirations for the future in which one party would be able to meet the other parties’ friends, families, confidants, etc.; the action of getting a place together, moving and even looking for a house pet by any chance; and even the slightest, yet clear discussion about the possibility of moving even more forward and “getting serious” about what it is that these two people into question have together, that possibly, could last forever.

That all seems like the quintessential, go-to sets of standards of what it’s like to be involved with a romance when its first stages, and when it begins to move further and further on into being something deadly, freakin’ serious. It’s what we all know and live by, and that’s just the way basic humans are. It’s neither good nor bad; in fact, I’d say that it’s freakin’ beautiful.

Nice to see a recent-movie in which Amy Adams has more than one-layer of clothing on.

Nice to see a recent-movie in which Amy Adams has more than one-layer of clothing on.

But, as we all know, there are those problems that casually show up when two people get together and start swapping as many emotions with one another, as they do fluids and it seems like it’s nearly unavoidable, no matter how perfect you think you got it. Eventually, tensions do arise when people start to experience new things; change in ways that they themselves realize, but are too scared of telling the other person; passions begin to go away; eyes start to linger elsewhere; minds don’t seem to cling together as well anymore as they used to, and instead, more or less clang together; and the worst of all, finding something, and/or someone else that seems better for you in many more ways than one.

These happenings are usually what one can expect when a relationship that was once beautiful, passionate, romantic and heartfelt in every sense of the word, suddenly goes South. And what sucks the most is that you don’t know how, you don’t know why, and you sure as heck don’t know what to do in order to you to stop it from ending and being tarnished in the ground forever. All you know is that what it is you have with this person, is real, honest, lovely and altogether, very painful when you get to look at it. When a relationship ends, it doesn’t just end with a whimper, but it ends with a bang in which a connection that two people shared together, seems like it could be gone. And in some cases, possibly gone forever.

Yes, it’s all so very sad and yes, it can be avoided in some situations (trying to re-ignite the flame by getting freaky with it, bringing in the shrink, asking for advice, etc.), but in reality, it’s inevitable. I truly do hate to sound like the miserable, cynical, “love sucks” a-hole that would much rather watch a movie about two people falling in love, than actually going out there into the field, making myself known and experience some lovin’ for myself, but that truly isn’t the case here. I’ve been in plenty of relationships (or in some cases, “something” that was close enough to being one), with plenty of different gals over the year to realize that this transition from absolute adoration for the other person, may not always last. And sometimes, it may even get so ugly and negative to the point of where it’s not even worth sticking around for. But people do try, and more than likely, they succeed and end-up sticking with that special someone of theirs forever and ever, or at least for a very long time.

But that’s what life is all about: Finding someone, getting to know them, falling for them, handing yourself to them on a silver-platter, realizing that they’re everything you could want in the world and basically, just finishing it by sticking together, or calling it quits. Either way, it’s a fact of life that I’ve been through many of times, and although I’d like to think that each and every time I step up to the plate, I’ve learned something new, tricky or life-changing about “The Game of Love“, reality hits me with a curve-ball and reminds me that I really don’t. But hey, that’s not a bad thing. That’s just life; I’m human, you’re human, we’re all human and that’s what humans do: We make good decisions and we make mistakes, but we always get back-up and ride the horse again.

That’s why watching the relationship between Samantha and Theodore develop over time to the point of where I wouldn’t see “an operating-system and a human falling in love with one another”, but rather, “two emotional, sensitive and compassionate-beings falling in love with one another, that also happen to be an operating-system and a human.” And to see these two as they realize who it is that they are when they’re around the other, and certainly away, really did touch me and had me remember all of the relationships I’ve had in the past. But most importantly, I thought about the memories: The good times, the bad times, the sexually-active times, the romantic times, the frustrating times, the upsetting times and how each and every one has shaped me into the person who I am today. Not just in the relationship-world, but in the world in general.

Jonze taps into this reality about our lives oh so beautifully, that isn’t all about the heart, the romance, or the drama, because, believe it or not, there is actually plenty of comedy to be had here. Most of the comedy to be found here stems from the fact that everybody in the future relies more on technology than ever before, but they aren’t cheap jokes. Like it’s not the type of, “Oh, look how funny it is that that person can’t stop texting at the table,” joke, but more sophisticated in the manner that Jonze shows us that we rely on technology so much, that it would totally break-down our lives if it were to go away in some shape, or form. It’s funny, but it’s also true. Brutally so, too.

The dreaded ex that haunts your dreams and daily-life for the rest of your existence. Yeah, bud, we've all been there.

The dreaded ex that haunts your dreams and daily-life for the rest of your existence. Yeah, bud, we’ve all been there.

Also, one aspect of this movie that a lot of the laughs seem to come from are with the performances of both Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson who both have some pretty hard tasks on their hands, but handle it effortlessly and make this a romance one won’t soon forget. Though Phoenix has never been known as the main source for comedy, but here, he’s pretty damn funny, but in a subtle manner. The way he uses his eyes or facial-expressions to make clear to us whatever emotion it is that he’s feeling, really worked for me and not only made me crack-up more than a few times, but made me feel more for this character of Theodore, who, in essence, is a hurt, beaten-up, heart-broken man that’s left with just about little to nil direction left in his life of where it is that he wants to go or what it is that he wants to do next with it. However, he’s not a boring loser and after awhile, once we get to spend more time with him and see who he is as a person, we realize that he’s just a really nice, fun-loving type of dude that used to be cool, happenin’ and the life of the party; it’s just been awhile since he’s been able to do so and he’s finally getting that chance. Phoenix is wonderful here and for a guy who has been of his for a long, LONG time, let’s just say that I’m happy to see my man Joaquin not only lighten-up the mood a little bit, but smile as well.

Sheesh! When was the last time we saw that dude crack a cheek-to-cheek grin on his face?!!?

As good as Phoenix is though, he somehow gets over-shadowed by the fact that Scarlett Johansson, using only her voice, is able to make us think-up, dream-about and visualize a character of who it is that she would be, as Samantha. I don’t know if I’m alone or not in this voice, but I’ve always thought that Johansson had a wonderful voice and it was about time it was put to the test that was more than just her singing out some classic, gold oldies. Now, we have her voice that practically takes up half of what we hear in the movie, but it never gets old and the character itself, is written so richly, that you understand why somebody like Theodore would fall head-over-heals for it. Heck, you may even ponder the question yourself! Regardless, the chemistry the two have together is pitch-perfect and not only makes you believe in their relationship when it’s beginning to pick-up speed, but when it surprisingly starts to fall-apart. They both seem perfect together and like they know what the other person wants in a relationship, but you know that with them, like with any other relationship out there in the world, conflict is inevitable, and so is the parting-ways between two people. It’s just all a matter of moving on, remember everything that you’ve been through and knowing that life does, and will continue on, that is really important.

Consensus: Her may have a weird premise on-paper, but it works out as perfectly as any other romance put-to-screen in a long while and will more than likely bring a few tears down the cheeks of many on-lookers, as well as having plenty of high-school sweetheart’s getting drunk-dialed in the middle of the night from a sobbing, incoherently rambling ex of theirs. But that’s perfect though, because love truly does make one person do the darnedest things.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Everybody on that beach was probably thinking who "that weird guy walking, smiling, laughing and talking all by himself", was. And then they realized it was Joaquin, so they no longer were curious anymore.

Everybody on that beach was probably thinking who “that weird guy walking, smiling, laughing and talking all by himself”, was. Then they realized it was Joaquin, so they no longer were curious anymore.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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57 responses to “Her (2013)

  1. Tom January 10, 2014 at 6:18 am

    Great review dude. Wow, the 9.5, huh?? Then again, can’t say Im too terribly surprised — this movie was. . . something else. I am still kind of in the shock of how good it was, and how real it was. It’s going to take a long time to do this review hahah.

    Love what you said about Samantha being “richly written” — that’s perfect. She was, it was unbelievable that the viewer just, starts feeling something for the OS1, too!!

  2. Bruce Simmons January 10, 2014 at 6:25 am

    Nice account of HER. Crap, now I want to go see it.

    What a shame (or sham) the the GOLDEN GLOBES dissed Scarlett because she did not play a person. I find it hard to believe how blind they can be about an actor portraying an entire world of emotion with voice alone.

    At least the OSCARS are considering her role in the movie.

    • CMrok93 January 13, 2014 at 7:23 am

      Yeah, who knows what they’ll end up doing with her. Personally, I think she’s more than deserving of an Oscar nomination, but as we all know, that isn’t up to me.

  3. Joseph@thecinemamonster January 10, 2014 at 6:54 am

    Stellar article, dan, absolutely stunning!

    This film, is without question one of the year’s best, if not the best. Johansson is immaculate and Phoenix really drives it home with a believably vulnerable and authentic performance. Jonze’s screenplay is infallible and endlessly heart wrenching.

    Again, terrific write-up! Happy you and I gave it the same marks :).

  4. Nostra January 10, 2014 at 7:26 am

    About the others hearing her I think it was because they were also wearing an earpiece. With the little kid I think there was a speaker in the little book type phone. This was a movie which you can connect with on so many levels and it makes you think about the development of technology as well. Loved this film and completely agree with that score (I gave it a 10/10)

  5. Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop January 10, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Top review Dan. This hits at the end of the month I think and it’s pretty much at the top of my must-see list. Really can’t wait.

  6. Pavan Kumar January 10, 2014 at 9:04 am

    Waiting for this movie to be released in India…Good writing…:)

  7. thomasjford January 10, 2014 at 9:09 am

    YES! I can’t wait to watch this one! Thanks for not ruining my hopes by giving it a rubbish score Dan!

  8. thycriticman January 10, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Shocked to see the reaction this movie is getting. Creative as hell concept, yet it has been one I plan on watching, but keep hesitating due to the oddness. I am going to have to suck it up it seems, and give this the chance it rightfully deserves. Awesome review buddy, you have convinced me.

  9. mettelray January 10, 2014 at 9:29 am

    got a chance to see this movie yesterday and I don’t know. I’m a bit conflicted.. I liked it, yes, it’s very different and for a movie that 98% of the time has one man on the screen, it didn’t get boring – which is an achievement. Now, the possible problem with me is probably my mood during the watching, I was in a bad place so, Her didn’t really make my mood any better due to the fact that the topic is rather sad. Can’t forget the “addiction to technology” fact which makes Her a really sophisticated movie about the current state of the world with all these new gadgets each month everybody needs to upgrade and stuff.

    Now I lost my train of thought… what I meant to say was, that just a tiny little part of me, thought it was too long. Just one scene here and there that I could have been without.. though maybe it was just me.. Nice review though, quite the read for me this morning! :D

    • CMrok93 January 13, 2014 at 7:32 am

      Hey, I hear ya! I’m glad that you at least let me know on your own feelings when it came to this movie. Totally understandable, and in fact, makes you more human. This is the type of movie to bring out those types of emotions, so I’m glad to see it playing-out well.

  10. CouchKurisu January 10, 2014 at 9:51 am

    Really nice review Dan! :) Can’t wait to see this when it arrives in the UK. It’s been too long since I’ve felt that Spike Jonze bizzare yet relatable immersion with Being John Malkovich and Adaptation!

  11. mmonty86 January 10, 2014 at 11:52 am

    What a deeply absorbing and romantic film, buoyed by heart wrenching performances. There are scenes in the film that are so pure, intimate, and nauseatingly true that the film unequivocally mirrors our romantic lives, in spite of its unique concept.

  12. Whit's Movie Reviews January 10, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    This was my favorite film of the year. Glad you liked it as much as I did. It was beautiful. Answered so many questions about A.I. while simultaneously crafting a wonderful story. Great review..

  13. gilbertspeaks January 10, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    I’m so glad that I read your review, because now I want to see the film:)

  14. keith7198 January 10, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    I’m actually on my way to see this right now. Looks like I have a real treat ahead of me.

  15. Lisa Erdman January 10, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Phoenix is one of my favorite actors – so I was excited to see this as well. I thought the movie was very thought provoking and beautiful. I also loved the styling and the camera work. One of my favorites of the year.

  16. Old Ain't Dead January 10, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    The premise for this film is so geekily romantic that the idea of it is irresistable. I cannot wait to see it and enjoyed your review. Like many other films about technology, I think this one is giving us a meta message about where we’re going – or where our technology is taking us.

  17. Joan Fuchsman January 10, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    I enjoyed your review a lot. You enjoyed “Her” a tad more than me, but I thought it was very good,too. It is interesting to think about what we might have thought if Bea Arthur (RIP) had been the voice of Samantha :-) I did think Scarlet J. was absolutely perfect and it was great to watch a movie in which Joaquin was having fun.

  18. Three Rows Back January 10, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    I’d heard great things about this; glad to see you that you feel so too. Nicely reviewed.

  19. JustMeMike January 10, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    I’ll get to this one sooner rather later as it is playing in town at the two theaters I go to most frequently. I’m not a huge fan of Joaquin Phoenix – one of my all time favorite moments in film is when Crowe’s Gladiator took him out in the arena, but based on your review – I’ll find my way in to see it. With Rooney Mara and Amy Adams, and Scar-Jo’s vocals it should be very good. Thanks for the fine review – you sold me on the film.

  20. ckckred January 11, 2014 at 12:24 am

    Nice review and great to see a near perfect score. I’m a huge fan of Spike Jonze and he has a near perfect track record, plus Joaquin Phoenix has been on a roll as of late.

  21. Candice Frederick January 11, 2014 at 1:01 am

    it is very very visceral and so accesible and relatable, shockingly so. i think others can hear what samatha was saying because theodore wasn’t wearing the earpiece but had her on speaker?

  22. Alex Thomas (@Athomas20) January 11, 2014 at 4:28 am

    Hey, I was thinking the same thing about them being able to hear Samantha. Would have been nice if they cleared that up a little.

    Fantastic film, I hope I get even more out of it on a rewatch.

  23. Mark Hobin January 11, 2014 at 5:08 am

    Loved this film. It’s part science fiction, part love story. One of my Top 10 of 2013.

  24. Lights Camera Reaction January 11, 2014 at 10:55 am

    My most anticipated film! It doesn’t come out in the UK until February, sucks for me.
    Glad you loved it though!

  25. angie chui January 11, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    I’m quite excited to see this but Phoenix with a mustache is a bit weird to look at.
    Sorry to get off topic, but great review, as always :D

  26. literaryvittles January 11, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    wow this sounds wonderful! i was a bit skeptical when i saw the preview, but now based on your review i believe i have to see it. it certainly did make you reminisce about your own romances!

  27. Lucy January 11, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Glad you loved this one too! You’re right – when Phoenix smiles it’s so unexpected and lights up the room. Awesome work by the actors. You make me want to see this again!

  28. Chris January 11, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Nice review, Dan. Certainly an odd premise, but then again, both Jonze and Pheonix are a couple of oddballs themselves, so it seems pretty fitting enough. And sure enough this movie ended up pretty great at that. :)

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  30. Norbert Haupt January 12, 2014 at 8:51 am

    I think every time others could hear Samantha, they always had their own earpieces in. So that aspect didn’t bother me too much.

  31. timneath January 12, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Great review, I can’t wait to see this for myself.

  32. olganm January 14, 2014 at 8:15 am

    It hasn’t reached the UK yet. I already wanted to watch it, now I’m really looking forward to it. Thanks Dan.

  33. Movie Review World January 14, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Im really looking forward to Her, The trailer paints it as a quirky rom-com but your review reads as its alot more than that. I cant wait. Nice review buddy

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  36. The Movie Man January 26, 2014 at 8:40 am

    Fucking yes! GREAT REVIEW, And GREAT SCORE! I’d give it a 9.75 just to top your score a little ;)

    I laughed so fucking hard when you said you’d consider dating your computer if it was voiced by Bea Arthur. That reminds me of that episode of Futurama, where she did the voice of the mighty ‘Femputer.” haha

  37. Pingback: » Movie Review – Her Fernby Films

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