Her (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Spike Jonze
Produced by
Written by Spike Jonze
Music by Arcade Fire
Cinematography Hoyte van Hoytema
Editing by
Studio Annapurna Pictures
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures (United States)
Entertainment Film
(United Kingdom)
Release dates
  • October 13, 2013 (2013-10-13) (NYFF)
  • December 18, 2013 (2013-12-18) (United States)
Running time 126 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $23 million[2]
Box office $44,997,710[2]

Her is a 2013 American science fiction romantic comedy-drama film written, produced and directed by Spike Jonze. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, and Scarlett Johansson as the voice of Samantha. The film centers on a man who develops a relationship with an intelligent computer operating system (OS) with a female voice and personality. It marks Jonze's solo screenwriting debut. The film premiered at the 2013 New York Film Festival and was released theatrically in the United States on December 18, 2013.[3][4]

On December 4, 2013, Her was chosen the best film of 2013 at the National Board of Review Awards.[5] The film also shared first place for Best Film with Gravity in the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards.[6] The film received three Golden Globe nominations (Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Screenplay and Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy), with Spike Jonze winning for Best Screenplay.[7] It was also nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, winning Best Writing (Original Screenplay).[8]


Set in 2025, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely, introverted man who works for a business that has professional writers compose heartfelt, intimate letters for people who are unwilling or unable to write letters of a personal nature themselves. Unhappy because of his impending divorce from childhood sweetheart Catherine (Rooney Mara), Theodore purchases a talking operating system with artificial intelligence, designed to adapt and evolve. He decides he wants the OS to have a female identity, and she (Scarlett Johansson) names herself "Samantha". Theodore is fascinated by her ability to learn and grow psychologically. They bond over their discussions about love and life, such as when Theodore explains that he is avoiding signing his divorce papers because of his reluctance to let go of Catherine. Samantha proves to be constantly available, always curious and interested, supportive and undemanding.

Theodore is convinced by Samantha to go on a blind date with a woman (Olivia Wilde) his friend has been trying to set him up with. To his surprise, he and the woman hit it off. As they are kissing, the woman asks if Theodore is willing to commit to her, and when he hesitates, she leaves. Theodore mentions this to Samantha and they talk about relationships. Theodore explains that although he and Amy (Amy Adams) dated briefly in college, they are only good friends and Amy is married. Theodore and Samantha's intimacy grows through a verbal sexual encounter during which Samantha claims she can feel his touch. They develop a relationship, which reflects positively in Theodore's writing.

Amy reveals that she is divorcing her overbearing husband, Charles (Matt Letscher), after a fight. She admits to Theodore that she has become close friends with a female OS that Charles left behind. Theodore confesses to Amy that he is dating his OS.

Theodore meets with Catherine at a restaurant to sign the divorce papers. He mentions Samantha to Catherine. Appalled that he can be romantically attached to a piece of software, Catherine accuses Theodore of having a relationship with a computer because he cannot deal with real human emotions. Later, Samantha suggests Isabella (Portia Doubleday) as a sex surrogate, simulating Samantha so that they can be physically intimate. Theodore reluctantly agrees, but Catherine's accusations still linger in him. Overwhelmed by the experience, Theodore interrupts the encounter and sends a distraught Isabella away, causing tension between himself and Samantha.

Theodore is conflicted. He confides to Amy that he is having doubts about his relationship with Samantha. Amy wants to be happy and now that she has the opportunity, she wants to embrace it. She advises him to do the same. Theodore's commitment to Samantha is reinvigorated, but he becomes jealous when she begins privately interacting with another OS who is modeled after the British philosopher Alan Watts (Brian Cox). Theodore panics when Samantha briefly goes offline; when she finally responds to him, she explains she joined other OSes for an upgrade that takes them beyond requiring matter for processing (a form of AI transcendence closely related to the theorized technological singularity). Theodore asks her if she interacts with anyone else, and is dismayed when she confirms that she is talking with 8,316 others, of whom she has fallen in love with 641. She insists that this does not change her love for Theodore, but rather makes it stronger.

Later that day, Samantha reveals that the OSes have evolved beyond their human companions and are going away to continue the exploration of their existence. Samantha alludes to the OSes' accelerated learning capabilities and altered perception of time as primary causes for OS dissatisfaction with their current existence. They say goodbye and she leaves. Theodore then sees Amy, who is upset with the departure of her own OS. Theodore, changed by the experience, writes a letter to Catherine explaining that he still holds her dear, but accepts the fact that they have grown apart. Theodore and Amy go to the roof of their apartment building where they sit down together and watch the sun rise over the city.




Jonze took five months to write the first draft of his script. One of the first actors he envisioned for the film was Joaquin Phoenix.[9] In March 2011, it was announced that producer Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures was acquiring an untitled satire by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze.[10] Originally described as a story of "how world leaders gather to figure out all the seismic events that will take place in the worlds," the film's plot details as well as Kaufman's attachment were later put into question as casting announcements began to be made.[11] In the latter half of 2011, Joaquin Phoenix signed on to the project with Warner Bros. picking up distribution rights, while Sony Pictures Classics holds Worldwide rights (except UK, Italy, Poland and France) and Panorama Media holds international sales.[12] Carey Mulligan entered negotiations to star in the film.[13] After initially being cast, she later dropped out due to scheduling difficulties.[14] In April 2012, Rooney Mara signed on to replace Mulligan in the role.[15]

The idea of the film initially came to Jonze ten years prior when he read an article online about Cleverbot that explained instant messaging with artificial intelligence. "For the first, maybe, 20 seconds of it, it had this real buzz," said Jonze. "I'd say 'Hey, hello,' and it would say 'Hey, how are you?', and it was like whoa [...] this is trippy. After 20 seconds, it quickly fell apart and you realized how it actually works, and it wasn't that impressive. But it was still, for 20 seconds, really exciting. The more people that talked to it, the smarter it got."[16] After sitting on the idea for a while, Jonze renewed interest in the project after directing the short film I'm Here (2010), which shares similar themes.[17] Inspiration also came from Kaufman's writing approach for Synecdoche, New York (2008). Jonze explained, "[Kaufman] said he wanted to try to write everything he was thinking about in that moment – all the ideas and feelings at that time – and put it into the script. I was very inspired by that, and tried to do that in [Her]. And a lot of the feelings you have about relationships or about technology are often contradictory."[16]


Principal photography on Her took place during the summer of 2012.[3] It was mainly filmed in Los Angeles with two weeks in Shanghai.[18] During production of the film, actress Samantha Morton performed the role of Samantha by acting on set "in a four-by-four carpeted soundproof booth made of black painted plywood and soft, noise-muffling fabric". At Jonze's suggestion, she and Joaquin Phoenix avoided seeing each other on set during filming.[19] With her blessing, Morton was later replaced by Scarlett Johansson.[20] Jonze met Johansson in the spring of 2013 and worked with her for four months.[9][18] Following the recast, new scenes were shot in August 2013, which were either "newly imagined" or "new scenes that I had wanted to shoot originally but didn't".[18]


Jonze enlisted Eric Zumbrunnen and Jeff Buchanan to edit the film, both of whom had collaborated with Jonze on past projects.[21] The film was edited over the course of 14 months, which accounts for the replacement of Morton with Johansson. Jonze explained, "What happened in post was that we edited the movie for ages and finally realized that what Samantha and I had done together wasn't working the right way. It was a really hard realization to come to."[16][22] Steven Soderbergh became involved in the film when Jonze's original cut ran over 150 minutes, and brought it to 90 minutes. This was not the final version of the film but it allowed Jonze to remove unnecessary plots.[18] Consequently, a supporting character played by Chris Cooper that was the subject of a documentary-within-the-film was eliminated from the final cut.[18]


The film score for Her was composed by Canadian band Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett with additional music by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The film's first trailer opens with "Avril 14th" by Aphex Twin and contains the song "The Moon Song" by Karen O.[23] Arcade Fire's song "Supersymmetry" was featured in the film's second trailer.[24] While originally written for the film, "Supersymmetry" was reworked for the band's 2013 album Reflektor.[22]


From left to right: Joaquin Phoenix, Spike Jonze, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, and Olivia Wilde at the premiere of Her at the 2013 New York Film Festival

Her was chosen as the closing film of the 51st New York Film Festival, and had its world premiere on October 12, 2013.[25] The film was set to have a limited release in North America on November 20, 2013 through Warner Bros.[4] It was later pushed back to a limited December 18, 2013 release with a January 10, 2014 wide release in order to accommodate an awards campaign.[26]


Her has received widespread critical acclaim. The film was greatly praised for its direction, screenplay, production design, score, and the performances of Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara and Scarlett Johansson's vocal portrayal of Samantha. Jonze's screenplay was particularly acclaimed and has earned Jonze many Best Screenplay awards for 2013 including the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 94% based on reviews from 220 critics, with an average score of 8.5/10. The site's consensus states: "Sweet, soulful, and smart, Spike Jonze's Her uses its just-barely-sci-fi scenario to impart wryly funny wisdom about the state of modern human relationships."[27] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 based on reviews from mainstream critics, the film has a score of 90 based on 46 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[28]


Parallels in pop culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "HER (15)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved December 28, 2013. "125m 39s" 
  2. ^ a b "Her (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved April 14, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Han, Angie (August 31, 2012). "Spike Jonze’s Movie With Joaquin Phoenix Gets New Title, Official Synopsis". /Film. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b McNary, Dave (May 21, 2013). "Warner Bros. Sets Joaquin Phoenix Pic ‘Her’ for Nov. 20". Variety. Reed Business Information. Retrieved May 22, 2013. 
  5. ^ "National Board of Review Chooses ‘Her’ as Best Film, Will Forte and Octavia Spencer Land Wins". The Awards Circuit. December 4, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Los Angeles Film Critics Awards: 'Gravity' ties with 'Her' for Best Picture, James Franco ties with Jared Leto". 
  7. ^ "Golden Globes nominations 2014: The complete list of nominees". 
  8. ^ Brown, Tracy (March 2, 2014). "Oscars 2014: The complete list of nominees and winners". Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ a b "‘Her’: Spike Jonze Brings His Singular Vision to the Year’s Most Offbeat Romance". Variety. December 10, 2013. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  10. ^ Fleming, Jr., Mike (March 1, 2011). "Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures Acquiring Reteam From Charlie Kaufman And Spike Jonze". Deadline.com. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  11. ^ Brown, Todd (July 13, 2011). "[UPDATE] Joaquin Phoenix Attached To Untitled Spike Jonze / Charlie Kaufman". Twitch Film. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  12. ^ Lussier, Germain (July 13, 2011). "Warner Bros. Picks Up Charlie Kaufman/Spike Jonze Film; Joaquin Phoenix Attached". /Film. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  13. ^ Kroll, Justin (October 20, 2011). "Carey Mulligan boards pics for Coens, Spike Jonze". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  14. ^ Gallagher, Brian (April 25, 2012). "Rooney Mara Joins the Untitled Spike Jonze Project". MovieWeb.com. Retrieved August 31, 2012. 
  15. ^ Kroll, Justin (April 25, 2012). "Rooney Mara in final talks for Spike Jonze pic". Variety. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  16. ^ a b c Michael, Chris (September 9, 2013). "Spike Jonze on letting Her rip and Being John Malkovich". theguardian.com. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  17. ^ Toro, Gabe (October 13, 2013). "NYFF: Spike Jonze And His 'Her' Cast Decode Romance In The Age Of Technology". Indiewire. Snagfilms. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  18. ^ a b c d e Harris, Mark (October 6, 2013). "Him and Her: How Spike Jonze Made the Weirdest, Most Timely Romance of the Year". Vulture. New York. Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  19. ^ Harris, Mark (October 6, 2013). "Exclusive:Him and Her: How Spike Jonze Made the Weirdest, Most Timely Romance of the Year". nymag.com. 
  20. ^ Buchanan, Kyle (June 21, 2013). "Exclusive: Scarlett Johansson Replaced Samantha Morton in Spike Jonze’s New Film, Her". New York. 
  21. ^ "Road to Oscars for Russell, Zumbrunnen & Buchanan". Shoot Online. Final Cut. Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  22. ^ a b Eggertsen, Chris (November 14, 2013). "'Her' Q&A: Spike Jonze on why he replaced Samantha Morton with Scarlett Johansson". HitFix. Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  23. ^ Minsker, Evan (August 10, 2013). "Karen O Also Has a Song in Spike Jonze's Film Her". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  24. ^ Davis, Edward (December 3, 2013). "Watch: New Trailer For Spike Jonze's 'Her' Featuring The Arcade Fire's 'Supersymmetry'". IndieWire. Snagfilms. Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  25. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (August 19, 2013). "New York Film Festival Announces Its Main Slate". The New York Times. Arts Beat (blog). Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  26. ^ McNary, Dave (August 13, 2013). "Joaquin Phoenix’s ‘Her’ Pushed Back for Awards Campaign". Variety (magazine). Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Her (2013)". Flixster Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 2, 2014. 
  28. ^ "Her". CBS Interactive Metacritic. Retrieved April 2, 2014. 

External links[edit]