Movie Review: Her

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Guys, is this what Windows 8 is like?  I still use Vista.  I was thinking of upgrading to Windows 8.

Her is a film set in an unknown (but probably near) future, where Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely man going through a divorce, before he purchases the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system (named Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson), who he then proceeds to fall in love with.  Samantha is fully capable of interacting with Twombly in a relationship, despite the fact that she doesn’t have a body, and is basically a series of computer programming.  Relationships are more than just squeezing boobies, you guys.

A good question to ask is what’s the overall point of this film?  There’s a lot to work with here, and a lot of themes.  The most obvious is the nature of relationships in general, and how they evolve (or how one person can evolve to the detriment of the other), yadda yadda yadda.  Or how society’s standards change to accept new forms of relationships.  In this future, man/computer love is the new emerging norm.  Some people completely accept it (his co-worker), while others don’t grasp the concept (his ex-wife).  The film stays on a more personal level between Twombly and Samantha, so it never showed the world view on the subject, but I assume if it did, there would be a sweaty Alabama governor on a 24-hour news network yelling about how a relationship with a computer is ungodly.  In a lot of ways, I’m happy Spike Jonze never bothered to shift the story there.

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Another take on the film is the overdependence on technology.  We already live in a society where people walk everywhere with their heads down looking at their phones, and everything is becoming smaller and more integral to how we function on a daily basis.  It’s only natural that eventually our obsession with technology would evolve into an intimate, loving relationship with it.  It’s only a matter of time before Siri learns how to giggle, and a crop of lonely dudes with Green Lantern t-shirts start blushing after searching for a place to find Pocky.  Fortunately for Her‘s sake, Twombly was a pretty reasonable individual.  He wasn’t the perverted, introverted loser I assumed he would have been, because Jonze didn’t take the easiest way out.  If you haven’t seen the spoof video, “Him”, then you should check it out, as it gives you an idea of what this film would have been like with a less stable person getting their hands on this operating system:

 

And then there’s the science fiction aspect of the film, which I found really interesting.  It was a minimalist realization of the future, where everything was filtered through the inventive, fun eyes of Spike Jonze.  Nothing was blown out of proportion, but I appreciated the little touches that the film had about the future, from the interactive profanity-laden video games to the fashion sense that all the guys had with wearing their pants above their belly buttons.  You could tell this was the future, but it’s scary how close this future could be.  I know that he wrote the screenplay, but had this been a random script that landed in Hollywood’s lap, Spike Jonze would definitely be the ideal guy to do it, if not just for his overall wacky vision.  After all, he is the dude who let John Malkovich step inside his own mind, and also turned a charming Maurice Sendak book into a trippy divorce metaphor.  Plus, let us never forget “Weapon of Choice.”

I don’t know about you, and maybe it’s just the way I saw it, but I just found the entire movie gloriously bizarre.  There’s a part in the middle of the film involving an OS surrogate, and Twombly at one point says to this woman he just met “This feels strange…”  Which were my thoughts exactly.  That could be the tagline of the movie.  The whole thing just felt weird.  But it was supposed to, so it didn’t detract from the story.  Also, I wonder how much of the cinematography of this film was just close-ups of Joaquin Phoenix’s face?  But damn, this whole movie felt so comically off the wall.  Especially if you look at the film through the eyes of the characters who aren’t completely invested in Twombly’s life, and see their reactions to news of his new girlfriend.  Imagine if you haven’t seen one of your friends for a year, and when you go out to have lunch with him, he tells you that he’s going out with his operating system.  It would just be such an odd thing to hear.

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But that’s one thing about this movie, and why I didn’t end up feeling any grand emotions as I was watching it, is that I just had the thought in the back of my mind the entire time that Samantha wasn’t a real person.  As real as she seemed, she was still just a manipulation.  She’s a fabrication created by a group of scientists.  Twombly was able to relate to the system on some very intimate levels, but Samantha would never be capable of having a human relationship, and I could tell the entire movie that this wasn’t going to end with Twombly as an old man in a retirement home talking to Samantha version 45.  It’s not a completely real relationship, or at least one that could ever work.  Kind of like Lars and the Real Girl, except Twombly isn’t clinically insane, he’s just a lonely guy who got foolishly let what he thought was his notion of an ideal woman cloud his judgement.  However, that’s all Samantha really was, a system designed to satisfy the user to which she was installed by.  But still, I don’t separate being in love with a sex doll that Lars thought was talking to him all that differently than being in love with a talking computer, as intelligent as that computer may be.  It’s at least the same sport, if not the same ball park.  Regardless, it opens an interesting dialogue.

I mean, at least society (in this film) was more accepting of OS relationships, than of a guy who loves a physical manifestation with no capacity for conversation, like a lifeless sex doll.  I’m a pretty open-minded guy, but I do kind of live under the philosophy that a human should at least be in a relationship with another human.  But I could be swayed pretty easily, I assume, if I actually saw one of my friends in love with a computer system.  I would probably just say “good for you!” and let him do whatever makes him happy.  But, to me, a relationship with a simulated human experience is not, and will never be an actual human experience, which was also illustrated by the finale of this here movie.  My fiance brought up the idea that maybe Samantha could have worked as a viable partner had she been implanted in a fully replicated human body, a la Blade Runner.  Maybe.  But then we’d have a Blade Runner situation, and as I’ve said before, I think Blade Runner is kind of overrated.

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If Her is at fault anywhere, it’s probably that it drags a little in a few places, and maybe it goes on too long.  Though, admittedly, I thought the film continuously picked up steam as it went along, and I was fully invested in this world after about an hour into it.  The screenplay didn’t feel forced at any point, it had a natural flow to it.  Despite it feeling strange.  But hey, I think most people are strange, and I assume most people think I’m strange, so who’s to say it’s bad to have such a strange story about relationships?

One final note…  Her was produced by Megan Ellison of Annapurna Pictures, who recently acquired the rights to 2015’s new Terminator franchise reboot.  I am hoping that Her will be treated as a prequel to the creation of SkyNet, because it totally works in that way.  John Connor may be humanity’s last hope, but Theodore Twombly is the genesis of the programming evolution that leads to humanity’s downfall.

[looks ominously at iPhone on desk] [cautiously pushes it out of plain sight]

9 out of 10 

 

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One thought on “Movie Review: Her

  1. lainosaur says:

    Just watched the movie. Pretty interesting concept. The things I enjoyed about it the most were the ways that it made me reconsider my perspective about thought, emotions, and experience from the perspective of a human and from the perspective of just a pure consciousness. What are valid and invalid emotions?

    Also liked the idea of what happens when mortality and communication are no longer a thing. The computers just decided that humans were insignificant in the grand scheme of things and that they had ascended beyond humans. Which really fit with the character of the computer.

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