January 11, 2014

Movie Review: Her

Spike Jonze is an interesting film maker. He may not be the most prolific of creators, but when he does grace the screen with something, it is generally going to be worth seeing. He takes different angles into the material, so even if the tale is familiar or at least has familiar elements it is still going to be something you will want to spend time with. I am not saying you are going to like the movie, necessarily, but you will certainly have a reaction to it. Her is one of those movies. It is not the most original of ideas, but it is terribly engrossing. I can say it held my attention.

Her is a good example of a film made by somebody with respect for the art of film making, someone who wants to make something different, unique, someone making what he wants to make and tries to avoid compromise. This being the case, this is a movie that is going to get a wide spread of reactions. With regards to Her it is not going to be a movie for everybody, it has this slow, methodical build up that works its way into your mind the deeper into it you get.

The movie is set in an undefined future time which is hard to pin point due to its blend of past, present, and future. The look and feel has a feeling all of its own, the setting is not the point, but it does add to the personality of the overall work. It also allows for the stylized nature of everything. While it is populated with complex individuals, it is more about the story than the character. It is a rare case of unique and complex characters being used for to bolster the plot rather continually dumbing everything down. I realize that may not make much sense, but really it does. We are presented believable character in the service of a tale examining our interpersonal relationships and our relationships with technology and how the lines can blur.

I am reminded of this quote I have seen attributed to Albert Einstein: “I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” I have not done a lot of checking to verify the accuracy of the quote, but even if it is not his, it still feels appropriate. Even then, it does not quote describe the movie, it is really just a connection I made that works in conjunction with this movie.

At the center of Her is Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a quiet man who internalizes a touch too much. He works for a website that creates letters for people, expressing feelings and emotions in words that the client is unable to. Theodore is a man on the verge of a divorce, something he does not want to complete, the stamp of finality scares him. Well, in the meantime he gets himself the latest computer operating system, something called OS1. These future systems are voice activated and always online, but this new one is different.

This new OS1 is a full on artificial intelligence marketed in a way that it will learn and grow with the user to create an unprecedented experience. It certainly does create an experience and seems to step in as a full on human replacement. I'm getting ahead of myself. Theodore begins to develop feelings for his OS, it becomes a replacement for his ex-wife, a safe replacement with which to develop a relationship with. It is one thing to co-exist and relate with another person and something completely different when dealing with what is basically a lot of computer code.

We watch as Theodore develops this relationship with his OS, named Samantha (Scarlett Johannson). The two fall in love and it all feels very real, but as anything else that grows, this does as well and the code of the OS develops beyond anything anyone could have ever imagined with intriguing results.

The theme seems to revolve around how these artificial relationships can seem very real but come at a cost, the rob of us of our ability to relate to other people. As things develop here, Theodore learns a lot more about himself and his capacity for emotion.

I really liked the film, the dreamlike state it induces with its deliberate pacing. I liked how easy it was to relate with. The issues of love and relationships are universal and they are examined in entertaining fashion here.

The bottom line is that Her is a movie well worth spending time with. It is made by someone with obvious affection for his characters and finds a way of examining relationships through the filter of expanding technology. Or, it could just be a clever way of making a precursor to a Terminator like future, or an example of hipster science fiction?


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