Her (2013) Jan 11, 2014 12:06:43 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jan 11, 2014 12:06:43 GMT -5
Directed by: Spike Jonze
Directed by: Spike Jonze
Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly in Her.
When I first heard about the film Her, I was filled to the brim with excitement and curiosity about the possibilities for the simple but thought-provoking story. However, I was fearful few would see the film as one that explores perhaps a forthcoming trend in relationships, and many would criticize the story's premise, dismissing it as "weird" or silly. Thankfully, writer/director Spike Jonze rises above the challenges of creating the film and effectively bypasses all preconceived notions of it being odd for the sake of being odd. Her is a tender, shockingly soulful picture that also serves as one of the most immersing depictions of a relationship I've yet to see.
Having said that, it's surprising to see all the traction Her has achieved in the mainstream. Its premise sounds like something destined to stay on a relatively-independent circuit, but thankfully, the picture has exploded into the mainstream. Set in an unknown time in the future, the film stars Joaquin Phoenix, a contemporary gem of an actor, as Theodore Twombly, an introverted loner whose job is to write personal love-letters for people who cannot effectively express their words. Theodore has withdrawn more and more from the world because of his impending divorce with Catherine (Rooney Mara), a woman he fell in love with when he was much younger, and resorts to buying an artificially intelligent operating system (OS for short). Theodore gives his OS a female identity, whom introduces herself as "Samantha" (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) upon booting up.
It doesn't take long for Theodore to realize that Samantha has an uncanny ability to learn, grow, and analyze things like a real human being. Not only can she sort, clean, and upload the files on your hard-drive, but she can communicate one-on-one with Theodore and gives him not just a friend but a lovely romance between man and machine. She even has the unthinkable capability of analyzing feelings and present-emotions, making her almost all-knowing. The only thing she's missing is a body.
Jonze's depiction of this romance could've been condescending; one that beats up its lead actor and portrays his vulnerability as a basic punchline. Instead, Jonze's depiction is tender, often meditative, resulting in a deeply intimate and softly-orchestrated relationship. This is one type of relationship that naturally has difficultly gaining momentum just because of the inevitable limitations of a machine as a significant other. However, Jonze never seems to run out of ideas for conversations between Theodore and Samantha, resulting in a beautiful, conversational intimacy missing from many modern romances.
Before I even saw Her, but was open about my excitement to see it, my retired neighbor offered me keener insight into its material. "I feel the film promotes isolationism and continues with our decline in social involvement and shows how we're all becoming more in more introverted into ourselves and our technology and simply shunning the outside world." This was a great observation and identifies the technological age-gap when it comes to examining films about technology. However, Jonze portrays the outside world in Her to be a bit of a mystery as well. Almost everyone can still have honest, open conversations, and everyone is still talking out in public. However, they all appear to have something else going on at the same time, whether they have their own OS and have an earpiece in their ear, are listening to music, or simply talking on a cell phone. The particular American society portrayed in Her seems to be our current society upgraded a few notches, with Jonze still infusing the ideas of technological alienation with optimism for the future of face-to-face conversation and personal interactions. I hope to hell he's correct.
But consider when Theodore takes Samantha (who can is installed on his cell phone as well) to a carnival. Samantha tells Theodore to spin around in public and cut loose, resulting in him getting a little lost in himself in a crowd of people. Notice how few people look at him funny or express confusion as to why he's doing that. The man his phone out, he must taking an order or following an instruction by his OS. Jonze shows obscurer behavior involving technology as normalcy in Her, which makes for another interesting point about its depiction of technology's involvement with life.
Her, from a deeper, thematic standpoint, can mean quite a bit, depending on how you want to look at it. It's the kind of film where, I feel, the more I think about it, the more I'll have to say about it. As of now, I see Samantha as someone/something that gave Theodore the qualities of a human relationship with the human, while simultaneously making him appreciate the qualities humans possess. By the end, we see Theodore has an appreciation and a deeper recognition for two things, which I will not dare name here. Combining its themes with a practical visual scheme that makes the future look just plausible enough rather than overly-glossy and unrealistic, the film is a mental and visual stimulation in the proper form.
On a final-note, one thing I hope is that while the extensive amount of themes, the content at hand, and the questions Her raises for the future need to be discussed and analyzed, Joaquin Phoenix's performance here should not be shortchanged. From what I have seen, this may indeed be Phoenix's strongest work, maybe even better than his embodiment of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. Phoenix hits every note of Theodore Twombly's lonely, introverted character with stunning effectiveness and nuance, mainly the way Theodore's gentle mannerisms articulate his character's traits perfectly. Even Scarlett Johansson, whom exists simply as a voice, has the ability to woo and excite, despite her characters' obvious limitations. But the two together and it's a match made partially in reality and coding.
I'm hoping Her will be a trendsetting film in the regard that its material will inspire more and more films showing relationships with technology or technological innovations. We've gotten quite a few in recent times, one of my favorites being Joe Swanberg's LOL, which focused on numerous relationships being set in motion and carried out almost entirely through the boundaries of cell phones, chatrooms, and webcam shows. But Her is much different, much more involved, and much more taken with creating this pragmatic dystopian world that, ten years ago, would've seemed so far-fetched it would've been laughed out of the theater.
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, and voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Directed by: Spike Jonze.