The future is a strange, mysterious place, where letters are artificially hand-written and men wear high-waisted pants. In this version of tomorrow, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a introverted-sweetheart-writer-soon-to-be-divorcee with a penchant for video games and nighttime sexychats. After buying himself an AI-based OS who calls herself “Samantha” (Scarlett Johansson), Theodore becomes fascinated with her love of discovery, and through her finds the means to enjoy life again. Sorry, but there are some spoilers.

Sad face

First I was all –

Originally I was thrown off by the OS-angle, only because I felt it’s been done so many times before. We as people are absolutely obsessed with technology, and this is not the first, last or only time this commentary has been made. In fact, there’s a whole genre of anime that is based on the concept of an other-worldly women changing the lives of their men, while simultaneously criticizing technological reliance.

Additionally, I found Samantha’s adaptive ability to be a little ridiculous – for instance, how does she understand humor so quickly? Or how does she experience the equivalent to a female orgasm? Not that she says that’s what was going on there, but how did she know to replicate that kind of sensation, audibly? (Great call blacking out the screen on that one – very immersive.) How does she “feel” exactly? Does she just pull from a massive database of reaction videos, or is the concept of feeling programmed? Why not make a movie on programming subjective behavior – I think that would be a more fascinating analysis.

Sorry about the digression. I need to stop myself from picking at these technical things – I realize that really these nuances don’t really matter in the context of the story (until it has to be an inevitable plot point or two), so I’ll get on to the heart of the matter – the complexity of human relationships and emotion, as well as the cruciality of communication.

But then I was all -

But then I was like –

Despite my gripes of technological fabrication, I really to have to commend Spike Jonze’s ability to blend the lines between artificiality and organicism. For instance, the opening piece of music blends from electric distortion to recognizable acoustics. More so, whenever we hear Samantha or any other OS speak to Theodore, there is no distinct separation between voices, which is to say that that the artificial voices are closer to viewers than the humans’ – it’s as if we are in Theodore’s mind with Samantha. Suddenly in a world where people are just perverse, characteristic shells, we get a glimpse that there still is a soul in there.

By allowing us a taste of such closeness, we are granted a look at the fact that people are flawed and are forever trying to figure themselves out. We turn away when we are most hurt, we desire connections but fear the intimacy of a conversation. Fortunately Theodore isn’t the only human in this film with these problems. With the help of a mediator, Theodore finds that he can be comfortable with another “being” again, and more importantly, with himself.

I know I didn't talk about them much, but Adams and Phoenix once again work  wonderfully together.

I know I didn’t talk about them much, but Adams and Phoenix once again work wonderfully together.

I think it’s fair to say that Her is one of those movies that I like more and more as I think about it. I’m still not sure where I stand when it came to the self-aware AI character, more so Theodore’s expectations of her. Is it weird that I found his possessiveness creepy? I mean, he does technically own her after all – did that conversation ever come up? Isn’t Samantha really just a hired therapist/personal assistant/sexbuddy? Sorry, sorry, I’m thinking too much about this again.

Technobabble aside, this film does a great job externalizing otherwise internal emotions… which Jonze unfortunately beats to death with his use of shapes and color schemes, but beautifully juxtaposed through Phoenix’s and Amy Adam’s performances. Though I harp on about the questionability of the technology in this film, I still find solace within the portrayal of the message that we’re all in this together. There may be ups or downs, but there’s always a forward.

Final Grade: B+



About reelgirl

Film lover, kitsch enthusiast, and all around neat gal. You can read what I'm up to at Reel Girl Reviews!

Posted on January 12, 2014, in Review and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. ‘Isn’t Samantha really just a hired therapist/personal assistant/sexbuddy?’

    Back in the good old days they were just slaves

  2. I like how it was a man being dependent in the social aspect in which we typically see a woman. Sure, the there is the taboo that men watch porn and that is even depicted here, however, it also portrays the angle of a man being dependent, not just a woman.

    I agree. She immediately laughs at things. There’s a point in the early bounds of their relationship where he uses slang. Although she responds with understanding and obviously the information was included in the programming aspect, I think of Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper. I feel that she may have asked for more understanding from Theodore (Theo-because I’m lazy). Sure, she might have a working knowledge of humor, fine, but she doesn’t KNOW him immediately.

    Quite bashfully I enjoyed the dark screen. It made the theater feel the situation whether they wanted to or not. This was one of the many aspect that approached a sense of realism for me. How Theo went through his break up and replicated it to Samantha, I was astounded. As someone who can recall a breakup from about a year and a half ago, this film portrayed not only the emotions, but the INFORMATION. How it was for him, for her. Like a friend of someone who has been broken up, we see Theo’s recollection (LOVE the flashbacks) and then later get to meet his ex wife. Due to the length of the film I found myself being pulled, I think an easy 20 minutes could have been shaved. However, even though I realized I wasn’t in a world of high pants (GREAT consistency although 80% of the women wore skirts and dress, I counted in some scenes) this didn’t bother me because the content was so relateable.

    Thus music was a nice tie from sequence to sequence, scene to scene. It was also a part of Theo and Samantha and their relationship. Now I will say I struggled to separate my Film self and audience self through the film which is okay, however I found myself wanted to scream “HER REAL NAME IS SCARLETT JOHANSSON! GOOGLE HER” Sorry. As a heterosexual female, I still have a thing for her and I found myself wanting them to be together. That is, until she began to advance *sniff sniff*.

    Something else you bring up Reel Girl, is the voice. I often wondered if Samantha was the voice for all OSes’/’s? Maybe I missed it, but I never caught on to this and waited for it to be the thing that bothered Theo. Which it was, but it wasn’t introduced by voice but rather when Samantha has gone for a moment and Theo panics.

    Yes and I begin to wonder, does Theo get his money back? I know its not the point and if it were included in the film I would complain, but really. I mean, the OS had to be expensive then it just left??

    Amy was some much needed relief for not only me, but Theo and I really liked that aspect.

    I did quite enjoy Her, the color, the character, the music, the emotions that it made surface within myself, overall well done. Loved the costuming. I just hope I’m skinny enough to make those pants look good in the future.


  1. Pingback: Only Lovers Left Alive | Reel Girl Reviews

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