This was certainly an interesting watch to say the least. I have never been a big fan of Spike Jonze. At most his movies have left me either ambivalent or just out right annoyed. Where the Wild Things Are was probably his most redeemable movie in my eyes (I do not like Being John Malkovich). Nothing against the guy personally, just never been a fan of his movies or his writing. Plus, while we are on the subject of people in the film industry that I just do not care for, Joaquin Phoenix also makes that list. The guy has had some problems with just being an eccentric wacko and whenever he steps away from the public eye for his various reasons, I have not been disappointed that I would no longer see his acting. So naturally, when I hear about Her, a story starring Phoenix and directed by Jonze, I did not have high hopes. At most, I was expecting a decently done yet overtly pretentious movie in which a guy wants to have sex with a computer. That being said… This was a great movie. All things considered, this movie could have been absolutely dreadful with a touchy premise such as this. In lesser hands, this movie could have become an appalling movie where a guy has sex with his phone for two hours. But instead we got an excellent story about one man finding something to overcome a horrible divorce. So in other words, both Phoenix and Jonze have won me over on this one.
Set in the ambiguous near future, Her is the story of Theodore ‘Theo’ Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix). Theo works at a company that rights personalized letters to loved ones, spending all day crafting heartfelt letters between significant others. The irony of this is that he himself, with strong signs of being a hopeless romantic, is going through a terrible divorce after his wife left him. Unable to get back on the dating scene, most of Theo’s day is spent playing video games and looking up porn on the internet (I’m not relating to this at all). One day, he notices a new type of software system called an OS and purchases one. After a quick survey, Theo is introduced to Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) his new OS and a computer that is granted ‘intuition’ and can learn from its experiences.
After being introduced to Samantha, Theo’s life begins to quickly turn around and he enjoys life more and is experiencing new things with his OS. The sexual tension between Theo and Samantha slowly builds throughout the film until after a bad date leads to Theo and Samantha having a romantic entanglement which leads to a relationship. The movie then follows Theo and Samantha as they share in each others lives and face the new challenges of being a person/OS couple.
The Sci Fi Setting and Styles
I do love the semi futuristic setting. I like that it is certainly ‘the future’ but at the same time is not so far in the future that the audience feels a disconnect as it delves into the realms of science fiction. This is a logical future, one that will be just around the corner in 30-50 years from now. It is plausible with realistic goals and trends that we will possibly reach. There isn’t flying cars, outlandish outfits, or extreme stylistic changes. Just a future where software has become more complex. Video Games are much more interactive, computers are advanced and do not require keyboards, the headset device that Theo uses seems like the next plausible step to phones. Nothing seems too far out of reach.
I also love the clothing styles of the world. For whatever reason, men for the most part have mustaches and have high-waisted pants. There is a definite change in fashion trends that does feel plausible. There is a ‘hairstyle’ to this world that seems almost messy and unkept.
It is clear that this world has a very strong identity. Thanks to plausible technological advancements and constantly changing fashion trends, it is a world that builds itself with its subtlety, a minor change here, a slight software improvement here, and you have yourself your own futuristic world.
The Idea of What it Means to Be Human
Prepare to have your reality rocked when you see Her, because this film will take what it means to be a person and turn it completely on its head. These OSes have the ability of intuition, to learn, and the idea of independent thought gives an interesting thought into the next stage in the evolution of computers. This movie will challenge your concept of what it means to be human, how you see them, and how something like a computer with artificial intelligence can grow into what is by all means human consciousness.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Samantha introduces Theo to a OS created version of philosopher Alan Watts (Brian Cox). The scene establishes that Samantha has been talking to other people and other OSes, making Theo worry about their relationship, but what I find so fascinating is the concept that the creators of this OS, after seeing how the OS is functioning, created an artificial version of a now dead philosopher. Samantha’s line ‘just like Alan Watts but infinitely smarter’ (paraphrased) is terrifying in its implication. This is horrifying that they would create these new OS versions of famous people. What is to stop people from being replaced by these OSes that are capable of much more than humans and are they really humans at all? Is this really Alan Watts? Alan Watts died decades before this and you just recreated him in a day. It is amazing how one scene of this movie can make you question so much.
What I love most about this movie is the fact that throughout all of this, Theo’s relationship with Samantha is exactly what he needs. I think most of us have been there at one time or another. You go through a bad break up, feeling shitty, and unable to get back into the dating scene then this person comes along and helps you back on your feet. Sometimes it ends with the happy ever after, most of the time it ends in break up. But that person helps you get back on with life.
It is clear from the start that this relationship with Samantha just wasn’t going to work out. That is by no means a fault of anyone as it parallels many relationships that we go through every day. At one time or another, we all have that friend or friends who start dating and you know that it is not going to end well. But it is what that person needs in their life so in a way, it is all good. Samantha and Theo’s relationship is doomed from the beginning, but without Samantha this would have lead to a much darker story of Theo’s descent into horrific lonely depression. This is much less a love story and a lot more of one man overcoming all the problems in his life.
The relationship between Theo and Samantha is one that will confuse any viewer, some more than others. It is one that, in my opinion was intentionally done by Jonze. A relationship between a person and a computer is one that is a new concept to this world and naturally people take it different ways. I like that Jonze let’s all of these emotions flow. Some people are completely fine with the concept of a person falling in love with their OS while others seem almost appalled by the mere concept of the relationship.
When I was in the theater, I was looking at the reactions of each of the people in the audience to see how they were reacting to the relationship between Theo and Samantha. There were some uncomfortable faces in the audience at first while others were not fazed. My experience personally, I did have a moment of uncomfortable reactions to the idea of Theo falling in love with his phone, but then I warmed up to it as the film progressed. It is a great piece of writing on Jonze part to let those uncomfortable sensations sink in and give the insight of the rest of the world.
The reason it falls into the ‘meh’ category is because for some people, these uncomfortable sensations are enough to ruin a film for someone. I know several people who would walk out of a movie due to the sensation or others who would refuse to see it by the premise. It is not a con because the film handled it very well and presented it well. It walks a very fine line and does so with excellent precision.
Her is a well written and charming story. It is set in a plausible future, one that is very unique in its fashion and technology. It walks a very fine line that with one wrong step could have sent this movie plummeting into major box office bombs. Joaquin Phoenix is at his best, Scarlett Johansson does some amazing voice work as Samantha, and overall this is in my opinion Spike Jonze’s best work to date.
Final Score 4/5
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