Critical Mass: Everyone has a crush on 'Her'

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With Her recently earning nominations from the writers and producers guilds, Spike Jonze’s oddball romance about a lonely writer (Joaquin Phoenix) and his beguiling operating-system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) is emerging as a solid dark-horse in the season’s Oscar races. Not only do critics adore it, but it’s played well in extremely limited release since opening on Dec. 20. (It expands wide on Jan. 10.)

Set in an indeterminate near future, Her is the story of sad-sack Theodore Twombly. Recovering from a recent divorce, he works at an L.A. greeting-card company that composes intimate personal messages for loved ones. The women he encounters in his personal life don’t suit him — except for his one platonic female friend, played by a mouse-y Amy Adams — so he can’t help but be drawn to his new OS, a flirtatious and comforting presence who pulls him out of his malaise. “That the OS, which he calls Samantha, has the sultry, pack-a-day voice of Scarlett Johansson only heightens the case for why a man might fall for a piece of software,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty. “Her soothing voice, awkward stabs at humor, and breathy, eager-to-please laugh are a balm for his wounded soul. She’s a perfect 10 made from 1s and 0s.”

Click below to see what other leading critics had to say before rushing out to see Her:

Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“Jonze’s satiric, brave-new-world premise is undeniably clever, but it’s also a bit icy emotionally. He clearly has a lot on his mind about how seductive technology is and how much easier life would be if we could insulate ourselves from messy human emotions. But in the end, those ideas end up appealing to your head more than your heart.”

Ty Burr (Boston Globe) ▲
Her is a love story. Also a profoundly metaphysical meditation on what it means to be human. Also one of the more touchingly relevant movies to the ways we actually live and may soon live. Oh, and the year’s best film, or at least the one that may stick with you until its story line comes true.”

Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter) ▲
“Visionary and traditional, wispy and soulful, tender and cool, Spike Jonze’s Her ponders the nature of love in the encroaching virtual world and dares to ask the question of what might be preferable, a romantic relationship with a human being or an electronic one that can be designed to provide more intimacy and satisfaction than real people can reliably manage.”

Eric Kohn (IndieWire) ▲
“There’s no sense of compromise to his oddball love story. Rather than navigating between eccentric touches and accessibility, Jonze has it both ways: Her is both a well-rounded commercial romance and a capricious exploration of technology’s impact on identity in the information age.”

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle)
“What can be said for a movie that’s a lot more interesting to think about than watch? Her … embellishes its clever premise … with little touches of the unexpected. Yet the best things in the movie aren’t transporting or diverting but merely incite intellectual recognition: Yes. OK. That’s amusing.”

Liam Lacey (Toronto Globe and Mail)
“What really saves it is its probing, uncertain search for meaning: It’s an odd, sad love story, combined with a meditation on technology as an accelerator of social loneliness. Not a small part of it seems to be an allegory of lonely guys and their fear of women.”

David Edelstein (New York) ▲
“Is Jonze reworking his own personal history? In his ex-wife Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (where Coppola’s alter-ego is played by Johansson — a bizarre coincidence?), the husband (a music video director) is oblivious to his wife’s alienation. Her is an admission of that obliviousness and a lament for it.”

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post) ▲
“[Phoenix] delivers a quietly heroic, even Chaplinesque turn as an Everyman contemplating the nature of the self and the soul that lies within. At its core, Her is about listening, and both Phoenix and Johansson — who delivers an astonishing vocal performance — make that experience anything but passive.”

Richard Corliss (TIME) ▲
“Phoenix must communicate his movie’s meaning and feelings virtually on his own. That he does, with subtle grace and depth. At one point in his bedroom, Samantha asks him, “What’s it like to be alive in that room right now?” Phoenix shows us what it’s like when a mourning heart comes alive — because he loves Her.”

Manohla Dargis (New York Times)
“It’s crucial that each time you hear Ms. Johansson in Her, you can’t help but flash on her lush physicality, too, which helps fill in Samantha and give this ghostlike presence a vibrant, palpable form, something that would have been trickier to pull off with a lesser-known performer.”

Anthony Lane (New Yorker) ▲
“What makes Her so potent is that it does to us what Samantha does to Theodore. We are informed, cosseted, and entertained, and yet we are never more than a breath away from being creeped out.”

Her
Overall Metacritic rating (1-100): 91
Rotten Tomatoes: 91 percent

Rated: R
Length: 125 Minutes
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams
Directed by Spike Jonze
Distributor: Warner Bros.


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