A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Her is a beautiful, unusual romantic tale whose protagonist falls in love with a computer's voice, an offbeat coupling that may be difficult for younger viewers to comprehend. The film also takes on some mature themes, including the crumbling of a marriage and the mourning period that comes when a relationship breaks apart. Expect some swearing (including "f--k"), and scenes where a character has loud, enthusiastic sex with a voice. There's a bit of quick topless nudity and some sexy moments between adults.
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What's the story?
Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) works for a website that sends out handwritten letters for others -- they don't actually write the notes longhand; they're generated by a computer. He's a master at the form. When he writes (i.e. dictates) a letter, it's passionate and heartfelt, and often plugs into the beating center of a relationship. His marriage, on the other hand, has suffered a fatal blow. His lawyer's waiting for him to sign the divorce papers, and so is his wife (Rooney Mara), but Theodore is in no hurry. He's bereft, isolated in his melancholy. An old friend (Amy Adams) can only jog him out of his funk once in a while, and she has her own problems. All of that changes when he updates the operating system on his computer (in this distant future, it's accessible with not just a desktop but an earpiece and a hand unit resembling an old-fashioned cigarette case), which comes alive with the voice of a woman (Scarlett Johansson), who promptly names herself Samantha. She's no disembodied computer voice, however; she's an evolving being, intelligent and flirtatious and easy to love. But is it love? And can it last?
Is it any good?
Few movies capture the magic and the heartbreak of falling in love in an unexpected, mind-bending way; HER is one of them. Though it's set in a sterile, somewhat disembodied future, where people seem permanently outfitted with earpieces connected to their computers, bidding them to cull through their emails, make appointments, pick songs, its essential question is about something entirely human: the joy and frailty of love. Spike Jonze's film is a delicate meditation on love, but it's jubilant, too. It's also unpredictable in the best way, skipping the simplistic solutions for something more interesting and complicated.
Joaquin Phoenix commits completely to his character, exuding a sadness and vulnerability that feels particular to Theodore but entirely understandable. He's the walking personification of the audience's experience with defeat and sorrow. You can almost feel his fibers awakening again from their doleful slumber when Samantha comes into his life, adding order, yes (that is her job), but also injecting a spirited companion to his ruminations. Johanssen also deserves kudos for lending Samantha personality and verve even though we never see her. In a way, Her is just as much about allowing yourself to be free as it is allowing someone else into your life. How wonderful that a movie that is, in one way, about how we surrender too much, too often to technology also reminds us to get in touch with our own humanity.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the relationship between Samantha and Theodore. How is their relationship similar to traditional couplings? How is it different? Is this kind of relationship really far-fetched?
What might the film be trying to say about the nature of love? Is this a movie about technology, or something much more human, like relationships?
- In theaters: December 18, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: May 13, 2014
- Cast: Amy Adams, Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson
- Director: Spike Jonze
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Romance
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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