Her ★★★★½

I wouldn't have waited so long to see this amazing film, but there must have been a thousand people ahead of me in the request queue at my local library. Ironically, here's a movie well worth paying to see.

Writer-director Spike Jonze has rocked my world before with Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, but this really raises the bar. It's nominally a "love story," but only one of the partners, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), is human. As he is going through the throes of an unwanted divorce, he begins to develop a special bond with an artificially intelligent computer operating system (OS) called Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). That opens up all kinds of explorations into the nature of feelings and relationships, and Jonze treats us to some pretty heavyweight ideas along the way, from a new definition of "computer dating" to the development of "body surrogates" and the notion of multiple OS's interfacing to increase their own intelligence at an unimaginable rate. I loved how Samantha explained that the "space between the words" in a story is just as important or more so than the story itself. It's like she was approaching an almost Zen-like understanding of existence.

Other aspects of the film that impressed me included the exceptional score (especially the piano compositions as well as "The Moon Song") plus the crisp costumes and ultra-clean sets that give a near-future look to everything. There's also skillful use of extras (mostly seen as singles, often using their mobile devices in the background) and the lighting, which is excellent throughout, at one point disappears entirely to pitch black in order to mirror Samantha's disembodied reality.

Amy Adams provides a fine supporting performance as Theodore's neighbor and long-time friend Amy, while Rooney Mara's role as his estranged wife Catherine is short on screen time but very effective. A bit of eye candy is offered up in brief scenes with Chris Pratt and Olivia Wilde. I was surprised afterward to learn the telephone voice of "SexKitten" was provided by Kristen Wiig, which explains why it was so damn funny. SNL's Bill Hader did one of the chat room voices, too. And even mumblecore regular Steve Zissis has a cameo appearance

This film will certainly warrant a rewatch in the future. It is rich with food for thought and undoubtedly one of the very best titles released in 2013, well deserving of its "Best Original Screenplay" Oscar.

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