Joe Zappulla’s review published on Letterboxd:
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Her is a movie that made me immediately mad at myself for not regarding as a masterpiece the first time around. I don't know why it didn't click, as every aspect of the film is truly wonderful. I guess I wasn't mature enough to handle the themes, and what the movie is about, I still don't think I am. I don't know what its like to be hopelessly in love and have that crumble away, or what its like to feel alone on a desert island in a sea of people, but what I felt through Her was probably the closest I have ever been to those feelings in my entire life. I guess I wasn't open to that my first time around, and expected some comical futuristic commentary.
I don't know where to start. I think this is my favorite Science Fiction movie ever. Could you call it science fiction? I think you could. It's all about the future and the development of technology and how the world interacts with that, the basic cornerstone to most of your average sci-fi romps nowadays. My dad believes that science fiction is supposed to take your mind off the Earth like in one of the many spaceships it features, and introduce you to a new world. I totally understand how people would enjoy the genre as a form of escapism. But I don't. I feel emotionally distanced from the squeaky clean chrome hallways and the ray guns. Her is a science fiction film rooted in human emotions and human nature. While many Sci-Fi films talk about how technology adapts to tend to our every physical need, like the floating chairs in Wall-E, Her addresses the concept of technology adapting to our emotional needs, like love and companionship, which are far more important than fast transportation or interstellar travel. It's because of this grounded center than I found myself carried away in the futuristic metropolis of Her. It has its cool gadgets, and interactive video games, but they are just for show. The real heart is how humans attempt to find some sort of companionship so they don't feel alone on the hurdling rock called earth. Theodore writes letters for people's significant others, showing some of the emotional detachment that has grown in society, emotional detachment that began once people started looking down at their phones at the dinner table. But the way Theodore writes so elegantly and powerfully shows that this love and connection is still alive in the world, though it can be hidden through a digital screen sometimes.
It's both beautiful and heartbreaking.
Beautiful is a word I feel like I overuse, to signify emotional merit, or a nice looking shot, but Her is deserving of the adjective in every single part about it. The shots are marvelous, pure eye candy, the lighting is both clean and futuristic, but also realistic and practical. The use of color is marvelous. The score is so emotional, every song Sam writes on the piano just so perfectly encapsulates the euphoric highs of love and being with the one you love. The central concept and relationship acts as a symbol for relationships in general, and I was swept away in the spectacle. Often I sit from the sidelines, glaring at the romantic interests in films with disdain, but here I found myself enamored with the words they shared together, and the feelings they had. It's rare for me, and has only happened with this film, Punch Drunk Love, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
On my first watch I found Theodore as a bit of a creep, which I can still see, but it's clear that it comes from a place of loneliness, not from perversion. His loneliness is shown so perfectly through the cinematography and the editing, flashes back to his marriage fight their way on the screen just like they fight their way in his mind. We see the shaky first person camera, as if we were there, and I felt like I was there.
Of course I can't talk about the character without addressing Joaquin Phoenix's incredible performance. Since the tragic passing of Phillip Seymour Hoffman it has been becoming clear to me that Phoenix will take the role of my favorite living actor, the Master passing down the torch to the pupil. With this rewatch, Joaquin has starred in my favorite film for the last 3 years (The Master, Her, and Inherent Vice). His depictions of loneliness are so effective that they pain my heart, and his expressions of joy warm it. He can somehow show Theodore as alone in the swarm of people through his face alone, and then as ecstatic and love struck with the same muscles. The melancholy nature of the character becomes ever the more so powerful when it is contrasted with the vibrant colors around him.
Spike Jonze's script and direction is masterful, it has the honesty and the storytelling gusto of Charlie Kaufman. It creates a distant world that feels close because of the humans that inhabit it. It doesn't feel like another universe but instead like the technological and emotional growth we as a species will go on as time goes on.
Her is beautiful in every single way. It's emotional, visually breathtaking, thematically dense and always has something to say. Scarlett Johansson does more with her voice than most actors will ever do in their entire lifetime, the chemistry she has with Joaquin creates an amazing relationship that can never be mirrored again in film. It's touching and funny sometimes, and it's out there and inventive and it's what science fiction should be I guess. This time around it just hit me in a way I didn't expect, and in a way I don't think I can recover. As you can tell I can't really formulate and organize my thoughts. I guess I'm a big softy. Oh well.