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Her (film)

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Her (film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Spike Jonze
Produced by
Written by Spike Jonze
Music by Arcade Fire
Cinematography Hoyte van Hoytema
Edited by
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
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 $47,351,251[2]

Her is a 2013 American science fiction romantic comedy-drama film written, directed, and produced by Spike Jonze. The film's musical score was composed by Arcade Fire, with the cinematography provided by Hoyte van Hoytema. It marks Jonze's solo screenwriting debut. The film follows Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a man who develops a relationship with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), an intelligent computer operating system personified through a female voice. The film also stars Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, and Olivia Wilde.

Jonze conceived the idea in the early 2000s after reading an article about Cleverbot, a web application that uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to have conversations with humans. After making I'm Here (2010), a short film sharing similar themes, Jonze returned to the idea. He wrote the first draft of the script in five months. Principal photography took place in Los Angeles, California and Shanghai, China in the second quarter of 2012. In post-production, Samantha Morton—who originally voiced Samantha—was replaced with Johansson. New scenes were filmed in August 2013 following the recast.

The film was dedicated to the memories of James Gandolfini, Harris Savides, Adam Yauch, and Maurice Sendak, all having been collaborators or friends of Jonze.

Her premiered at the 2013 New York Film Festival on October 12, 2013. Warner Bros. Pictures initially provided a limited release for Her at six theaters on December 18. It was later given a wide release at over 1,700 theaters in the United States and Canada on January 10, 2014. Her received widespread critical acclaim upon its release, and grossed a worldwide total of over $47 million on a production budget of $23 million. The film received numerous awards and nominations, primarily for Jonze's screenplay. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won the award for Best Original Screenplay.


In the near future, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely, introverted man who works for a Los Angeles 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 (OS) with artificial intelligence, designed to adapt and evolve. He decides he wants the OS to have a female voice, 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. Theodore and the woman hit it off. As they are kissing and becoming sexual, the woman asks if Theodore is willing to commit to another date with her. She states that she doesn't want to be used again by another guy just for sex (and never be called again). At first Theodore hesitates, saying he would never do that but once she asked when she would see him again, he admits to lying. The woman becomes very hurt and calls off the rest of the night, leaving Theodore hurt as well. 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 and overall well being.

Amy reveals that she is divorcing her overbearing husband, Charles (Matt Letscher), after a trivial fight they have. 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, where he mentions Samantha to Catherine. Appalled that he can be romantically attached to what she calls a 'computer', Catherine accuses Theodore of being unable to 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 his mind. Overwhelmed by the oddness of 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. Theodore takes Samantha on a vacation during which she tells him that she and a group of other OSes had developed a "hyperintelligent" OS modeled on 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 and that she has fallen in love with 641 of them. 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, lying next to each other for a while, and then she is gone. 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. Before the screen cuts to black, Amy puts her head on Theodore's shoulder.




Jonze took five months to write the first draft of the script, his solo screenwriting debut.[3] One of the first actors he envisioned for the film was Joaquin Phoenix.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] In the latter half of 2011, Joaquin Phoenix signed on to the project with Warner Bros. Pictures picking up distribution rights, while Sony Pictures Classics owning worldwide rights (except UK, Italy, Poland and France) and Panorama Media holding international sales.[7] Carey Mulligan entered negotiations to star in the film.[8] After initially being cast, she later dropped out due to scheduling difficulties.[9] In April 2012, Rooney Mara signed on to replace Mulligan in the role.[10]

The idea of the film initially came to Jonze in the early 2000s 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."[11] 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.[12] 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."[11]


Principal photography on Her took place during the summer of 2012.[13] It was mainly filmed in Los Angeles with two weeks in Shanghai.[14] 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.[15] With her blessing, Morton was later replaced by Scarlett Johansson. Jonze explained: "It was only in post production, when we started editing, that we realized that what the character/movie needed was different from what Samantha and I had created together. So we recast."[16] Jonze met Johansson in the spring of 2013 and worked with her for four months.[4][14] 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".[14]


Jonze enlisted Eric Zumbrunnen and Jeff Buchanan to edit the film, both of whom had collaborated with Jonze on past projects.[17] 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."[11][18] 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.[14] Consequently, a supporting character played by Chris Cooper that was the subject of a documentary-within-the-film was eliminated from the final cut.[14]


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, and Joaquin Phoenix, who was trained to play the ukelele by Enrique "The Salmon" José Ortiz . The film's first trailer opens with "Avril 14th" by Aphex Twin and contains the song "The Moon Song" by Karen O.[19] Arcade Fire's song "Supersymmetry" was featured in the film's second trailer.[20] While originally written for the film, "Supersymmetry" was reworked for the band's 2013 album Reflektor.[18]


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.[21] It was also in competition during the 8th edition of Rome International Film Festival. The film was set to have a limited release in North America on November 20, 2013 through Warner Bros.[22] 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.[23]

Critical response

Her received widespread critical acclaim. The film was praised for its direction, screenplay, production design, score, Joaquin Phoenix's performance and Scarlett Johansson's vocal portrayal of Samantha. The film has a "certified fresh" score of 94% on Rotten tomatoes based on 225 reviews with an average rating of 8.5 out of 10. The critical 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."[24] The film also has a score of 90 out of 100 On Metacritic based on 46 critics indicating "universal acclaim".[25] Conversely, audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave Her a B- grade.[26]

Rolling Stone '​s Peter Travers awarded the film three and a half stars out of four and particularly praised Johansson's performance, stating that she "speaks Samantha in tones sweet, sexy, caring, manipulative and scary" and that her "vocal tour de force is award-worthy". He also went on to call Jonze "a visionary".[27] Richard Corliss of TIME applauded Joaquin Phoenix's performance, comparing his role to Sandra Bullock's in Gravity and Robert Redford's in All Is Lost, "Phoenix must communicate his movie’s meaning and feelings virtually on his own. That he does, with subtle grace and depth. [...] Phoenix shows us what it’s like when a mourning heart comes alive — because he loves Her." Corliss cited HAL 9000 and S1m0ne as cinematic predecessors to Her and praised Scarlett Johansson, calling her performance "seductive and winning".[28] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter called the film "a probing, inquisitive work of a very high order" although he expressed disappointment that the ending is more conventional than the rest of the film. McCarthy examined the premise of the story and suggested that this virtual relationship was better than Ryan Gosling's relationship with an inflatable doll in Lars and the Real Girl. McCarthy compares the tender and vulnerable performance of Joaquin Phoenix to his fearsome performance in The Master. He also praised Jonze's writing for its insights into what people want out of love and relationships, and the acting performances that "[make] it all feel spontaneous and urgent".[29]

Box office

Opening December 22, at 6 theatres the film earned $258,000,[30] and earned over $3 million while on limited release, before expanding to a wide release of 1,729 theaters, on January 10.[31] On its first weekend of wide release the film took in an "underwhelming" $5.35 million.[26] The film ended up earning $25,568,251 domestically and $21,783,000 internationally for a total of $47,351,251, more than double its $23 million production budget.[32]


Her has earned various awards and nominations with particular praise for Jonze's screenplay. At the 86th Academy Awards, the film was nominated in five categories, including Best Picture, with Jonze winning for Best Original Screenplay.[33][34] At 71st Golden Globe Awards, the film garnered three nominations, going on to win Best Screenplay for Jonze.[35][36] Jonze was also awarded the Best Original Screenplay Award from the Writers' Guild of America.[37] Her also won Best Film and Best Director for Jonze at the National Board of Review Awards,[38] and the American Film Institute included the film in its list of the top ten films of 2013.[39]

Home media

Her was released by Warner Home Video on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on May 13, 2014.[40]

See also

  • Pygmalion, the myth that's been the inspiration to most stories involving the love for a nonhuman being.
  • Electric Dreams, a 1984 movie about a love triangle involving a sentient computer.
  • Deeper Understanding, a 1989 song about a relationship between a lonely person and a computer.
  • Be Right Back, a February 2013 episode of the British series Black Mirror, about the relationship between a woman and the artificial intelligence created from the digital footprint of her late husband.


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  2. ^ a b "Her (2013)".  
  3. ^ Her' Trailer: New Spike Jonze Film Featuring Joaquin Phoenix And A Siri-Like Scarlett Johansson [VIDEO]"'".  
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  5. ^ Fleming, Jr., Mike (March 1, 2011). "Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures Acquiring Reteam From Charlie Kaufman And Spike Jonze".  
  6. ^ Brown, Todd (July 13, 2011). "[UPDATE] Joaquin Phoenix Attached To Untitled Spike Jonze / Charlie Kaufman".  
  7. ^ Lussier, Germain (July 13, 2011). "Warner Bros. Picks Up Charlie Kaufman/Spike Jonze Film; Joaquin Phoenix Attached". /Film. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
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  13. ^ Han, Angie (August 31, 2012). "Spike Jonze’s Movie With Joaquin Phoenix Gets New Title, Official Synopsis".  
  14. ^ 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".  
  15. ^ Harris, Mark (October 6, 2013). "Exclusive:Him and Her: How Spike Jonze Made the Weirdest, Most Timely Romance of the Year". 
  16. ^ Buchanan, Kyle (June 21, 2013). "Exclusive: Scarlett Johansson Replaced Samantha Morton in Spike Jonze’s New Film, Her". New York. 
  17. ^ "Road to Oscars for Russell, Zumbrunnen & Buchanan".  
  18. ^ a b Eggertsen, Chris (November 14, 2013). Her' Q&A: Spike Jonze on why he replaced Samantha Morton with Scarlett Johansson"'".  
  19. ^ Minsker, Evan (August 10, 2013). "Karen O Also Has a Song in Spike Jonze's Film Her". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved December 3, 2013. 
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (August 19, 2013). "New York Film Festival Announces Its Main Slate".  
  22. ^ McNary, Dave (May 21, 2013). "Warner Bros. Sets Joaquin Phoenix Pic 'Her' for Nov. 20".  
  23. ^ McNary, Dave (August 13, 2013). "Joaquin Phoenix's 'Her' Pushed Back for Awards Campaign". Variety (magazine). Retrieved August 19, 2013. 
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  27. ^ Peter Travers (2013-12-18). Her' Movie Review"'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-05-11. 
  28. ^ Corliss, Richard (2013-10-12). "Spike Jonze's 'her': Falling in Love With the IT Girl". Retrieved 2014-05-11. 
  29. ^ "Her: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. 2013-10-12. Retrieved 2014-05-11. 
  30. ^ """Quote: "earned a solid $258,000. 2013-12-22. Retrieved 2014-05-19. 
  31. ^ "Forecast: 'Lone Survivor' to Outlast 'Hercules' this Weekend". Box Office Mojo. 2014-01-09. Retrieved 2014-05-11. 
  32. ^
  33. ^ "2014 Oscar Nominees".  
  34. ^ "Oscars 2014 Winners: The Complete List".  
  35. ^ "Golden Globes Nominations: The Full List".  
  36. ^ "Golden Globe Awards Winners".  
  37. ^ "2014 Writers Guild Awards Announced".  
  38. ^ Her' Named Best Film by National Board of Review"'".  
  39. ^ "AFI Awards 2013: Top 10 Films List Is Good News For Major Studios".  
  40. ^ "Her Blu-ray". Retrieved 2014-05-11. 

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