As we come closer to the Academy Awards on March 2nd, we’ll be posting short profiles of each Best Picture nominee, attempting, in our own ways, to not only sum up what the movie is about, but why we believe it scored one of the nine coveted nominations, and why it could possibly take home the big prize come Oscar night. Enjoy!
Her was my favorite movie of 2013, hands down. I saw it twice. I cried like a baby both times. I wasn’t expecting it either. It’s a strange movie. VERY, very strange. I’m the sort of guy who adores these strange, off-kilter movies, and they’re the ones usually at the top of my “Best Of” list. It was the same with Synecdoche, New York . Magnolia. Cloud Atlas. I’m that guy who loved those movies more than anything else that respective year. Maybe I just like rooting for the underdog? But in the case of Her, I think it’s something deeper than that. Spike Jonze is addressing something that desperately needed to be addressed in our time; how we connect with one another.
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombly, a man who works at BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com, a website that creates, well, beautiful handwritten letters for their clients. This may be set in the “future” but it may as well be looked at as an alternate present. The retro-meets-neon clothing styles, just the simple awkward social interactions between characters that are so reminiscent of current daily life. This isn’t just any future; this is our future, right down to the over-reliance on a technological “brick” that everyone carries around (reminiscent of an iPhone/Android device of course, but the device itself is never given a specific name). Is it truly out of the realm of possibility for developers to try and create an OS system with a personality? Even Siri is programmed to have some humorous responses to certain questions. And thus, an intuitive OS is injected into this world, Theodore downloads the system to his device, and thus he meets Samantha, voiced exquisitely by Scarlett Johansson.
Where the beauty seeps into all of this is that the attention-grabbing premise of “man falls in love with his computer” is merely the hook. Plain and simple, this is a relationship movie, a romantic comedy for the new generation. A movie filled with humor and heartbreak, with video game aliens yelling at Theodore, and revelations that shock to the core. Just because one of the partners in this relationship is a computer doesn’t make these revelations any less valid. Samantha’s intuition proves her to be a much stronger character than she could have been. Theodore and Samantha both change and grow over the course of the film, and neither of them can learn to move forward with each others change. And from that they both grow as well. The maturity of this relationship and of this movie knows no bounds.
And these performances will knock you dead as well, primarily Joaquin Phoenix, whose lack of understanding, yet constant need for more is utterly heartbreaking. But he’s someone who realizes by the film’s end that to grow is to be human. To grow is to love, and utterly, fantastically vice versa. The proceedings are aided by a glamorous score by Arcade Fire, and additional music by Karen O. There isn’t a movie out there that speaks to this generation’s longing for connection like Her. It may not win Best Picture, but it is the best film of 2013. That’s what my heart tells me, at least.