Her (movie review)

We finally got around to seeing Best Picture Nominee Her and shockingly enough, I have a lot to say about the flick. The core of Spike Jonze, Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix are favorites of mine, so I’ll do my best to adjust my expectations accordingly.

Before this gets too ranty, let me gush about the performances.

Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix are amazing actors – they bring such sincerity to their roles. Phoenix has clearly taken a different career path and seems to chose his roles very carefully while on the other hand, I’m always amazed at how Johansson can make any dialogue sound believable.

Often, I find that acting is highlighted when the writing is strong, but quality acting is even more important when the performers are handed terrible dialogue in weak scenes. I don’t want to go too far into the writing at this point, but to say that Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix are awesome in this movie is an understatement. They breathe life into these words in a way that exceeds expectations.

Spike Jonze’s three previous films are, for me, two bullseyes and one… I dunno, a "WTF is happening here?" sorta thing. Being John Malkovich and Adaptation are the sort of movies that I think can change the way people look at film. Charlie Kaufman’s screenplays are incredible and Spike Jonze knew exactly what to do with them. Then I saw Where the Wild Things Are and… I dunno. It’s really beautiful to look at and I completely understand what the movie was about, but it just didn’t work for me. I can’t verbalize it well (obviously), but I didn’t care for that flick at all, but I still love Spike Jonze’s first two movies.

This time out, I think Spike Jonze hit it out of the park as a director and working with his director of photography, actors, production designers and so on, but as a writer… certain buzz words come to mind when you listen to people talk/watch certain scenes in this movie. Hipster. Pretentious. Manic Pixie Dream Girl. "How much longer is this scene?" "Would it be distracting to have Scarlett Johansson play the surrogate?"

As a filmmaker, these are not the sort of things you want the audience to be thinking about during a scene in your movie.

This doesn’t mean that I think the movie is terrible, it’s just that it’s far from perfect. And that’s OK – hey, a combination of this team and a Best Picture Nomination will do that for you. If you thought Her was excellent and I’m way off, try to remember the "The Moon Song" scene – it’s the very definition of pretentious… but at the same time, this doesn’t mean it was an ineffective scene.

Her is a safe narrative structure in a risky wrapper. It’s not afraid to take chances with the surface will keeping the foundation intact. My go to analogy here is building a typical ranch house and then painting it yellow with multi color polka dots. It’s still just a house – it might look zany, but there’s no risks in the basic structure. You could paint that house any color, but you went a weird way. That’s what his movie is – and that’s fine with me. The risks taken here are minimal. The instant you meet Amy Adams character, you know exactly how this movie is going to end, but that doesn’t make the journey any less interesting.

I think it’s fair to say that Her is a little too long. Each scene serves a purpose, but I’m not sure that purpose needed to be served – and often, I feel that the purpose has already been served and doesn’t need to be served again. The movie is beautiful, but redundant. There are so many montages… more than Captain America, if you can believe it.

Still, lines like "Falling in love is a crazy thing to do. It’s kind of like a form of socially acceptable insanity" are pretentious. They might hold true for some folks (not me), but that doesn’t make it any less pretentious.

OK, the word count for ‘pretentious’ in this post is officially out of control.

Before I wrap up, I did want to say a quick word about costumes and production design.
Hey, it’s IKEA’s take on the 50s in the future! Or in some cases, just straight up IKEA furniture in Theodore’s apartment. The entire production design kinda looks like that "Welcome to Your Future" thing on Spaceship Earth at EPCOT. For men, high wastes are in style! Wool pants with no belts! Uhm, brilliant?!? Sure, I like attention to detail.

Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Her – but I do get the feeling a lot of people out there liked it more than I did. There’s a really terrible version of Her floating out there in the multiverse where there’s a visual representation of the OSs leaving… of Samantha’s orgasm… that sort of thing. Or a version of Her made by a cast and crew that don’t know what they’re doing.

Thankfully, we got the good version – it could be shorter, but I’m giving Her an 8 out of 10, which is a solid recommendation for the uninitiated. Check it out if you get a chance, but we’re not feeling any rewatch value here.


About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on July 25, 2014, in movie review and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

    Dr Girlfriend and I both thought there was a 25% chance that they were going to jump off the building at the end

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