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Her

Her

What She said:

She

The future world that Spike Jonze creates in Her does not seem like too much of a stretch of the imagination.  Yes, people dress a little weird—the unfortunate trend of high wasted pants…in men…seems to have come back—but the not too distant future is otherwise about as I would have expected it.  Right now, we’re embracing the trend of fitness bands, Google Glass, and smart watches, and Her takes the next logical step, ear plugs that have personal operating systems in them that help you run your day-to-day life.

In this sedate, yet somewhat eerie world, we’re introduced to Theodore Twombly (ain’t that a name right out of 1700s British fiction?), a middle-aged mild mannered fella who works as a ghost writer.  He makes a living by crafting very personal letters from other people—we’re talking love letters, sentimental thoughts between mother and daughter, or letters from the death bed.  Theodore has been involved in certain people’s relationships for years, and he is shockingly good at what he does, even though he’s currently devoid of love in his own life.  He’s an emo guy, and his ex-fiance, and seemingly love-of-his-life, Catherine, dumped him a year ago.  Needless to say, the sadness has hit him hard, and so Theodore is having a hard time moving on.  His friend Amy encourages him to get a grip, and he’s even set up on a blind date with a beautiful woman, but Theodore is still a bit jilted by love.

So, he does what any smart person does—he purchases a highly advanced operating system, apparently capable of experiencing emotions, to bring him companionship.  Samantha (that’s her name) has a very sultry voice, and seems to really give a darn about Theodore.  As the two get to know each other, it’s clear that Theodore relies on Samantha for more than just personal organization.  He develops an emotional dependency on her.  And Samantha, being the sentient computer chip that she is, does likewise, and they begin to “date.”  It’s weird, but also not so out of line when you think of the number of people who date completely online nowadays.  Samantha is very human-like because she’s able to think like a human.  But over the course of time, it becomes clear that, although she has human emotions, she is still superior to us in her ability to process information.  This enables Samantha to experience things on a higher level than Theodore.  The two begin to grow apart as it becomes clear that they’re very different…er…people.  What makes the computer chip so great is also its tragic flaw, and Theodore is not the only one that suffers because of it.

Her

Her, while moody and sullen, it also quite interesting to watch.  I found some of the hipster/emo elements to be annoying.  Frankly, I wouldn’t want to live in this future world where everyone is so introspective and philosophical.  But there are different degrees of it.  In fact, it’s pointed out to Theodore several times that people miss the joyful person that he used to be.  It’s apparent that this isn’t just a Theodore thing.  Many have transitioned in this negative way, as technology has over compartmentalized their lives and emotions. 

Joaquin Phoenix does a great job as Theodore.  He’s a chameleon actor who is capable of transforming himself in so many ways on screen.  He’s a weirdo for sure, but also extremely talented.  Amy Adams plays Theodore’s longtime friend Amy, whose dealing with her own issues.  Scarlett Johansson voices Samantha, and although you never see her face, she definitely has a strong presence in the film.  I think the moviemakers casted the role very well, as she has an ability to do so much with just the inflection of her voice.  Rooney Mara plays Theodore’s lost love Catherine.  I consider her a throwaway, as I’m not a huge fan of her in general. 

This film is one part science fiction, one part romantic drama, and one part comedy.  Maybe I’m being a little generous by saying one part comedy, but there are certainly some humorous moments.  There are also some elements of the film that may make you feel somewhat uncomfortable.  There are a lot of people having cyber/chat sex with strangers that they don’t even know.  But even though I don’t really care to see it, or have my neighbors overhear the sounds of it booming from my home theater system, it also has noted value…I guess. 

The film is mild mannered, melancholy, and affecting.  I found it surprisingly thought-provoking and appreciated the performances.  Not the most enjoyable movie I’ve ever seen, but one that brings some important concepts to the table.

Thumbs mostly up.

Her

What he said:

He

Her is about an undisclosed time in the future in which humanity has made a noticeable leap in its technology. Everyone carries these little devices that serve as, well they serve as everything. You can make phone calls, send emails, and look up emails all from this little device. The best part is that you don’t really have to do anything. All you have to do is speak into the device and it does what you want. It talks back to you through an earpiece.

Recently, a new operating system has been developed. It is revolutionary, even for the future. This operating system has an artificial intelligence, meaning it not only does things you ask of it, it has a personality. It offers its opinion, reacts to jokes, and even tells jokes of its own. It’s like talking to a person on the phone. That’s how life-like these new operating systems are.

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a writer for a very unique company. People hire his employer to write letters for them, because they don’t feel like they can properly convey their feelings on their own. It’s sort of like hiring a greeting card writer to help you write your communications to your loved ones. Teddy is one of these writers and he’s pretty good at it.

Ironically, he’s going through some problems of his own. He is estranged from his wife and has yet to sign the divorce papers his wife (Rooney Mara) sent him. He’s also become a little distant from his friends. That probably contributes to how/why he gets so close to his operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).

Teddy immediately notices Samantha – that’s the name she gives herself – is smarter than his previous operating system. She starts off by organizing his life. Things like his calendar, emails, etc. are some of the things she helps Teddy clean up. He also notices that she doesn’t just do what he asks, she offers feedback, suggestions, and has thoughts of her own. In her downtime, she reads books, browses the internet, listens to music, and even writes music of her own.

Her

Teddy notices this and takes a liking to her. The two become friends and start “hanging out”. When he goes places, he brings her along. Instead of just interacting with her when needs her help, he talks to her on a regular basis. They talk about books, music, and just about everything else friends do. After a while, the two of them begin “dating”.

The movie explores all the classic themes present in this kind of science fiction story. What does it mean to be alive? Just because it’s not human doesn’t mean it can’t be alive. There are a lot of living things on this planet that aren’t human. So, if humanity can create something that can think for itself, form opinions, have feelings, why wouldn’t it be considered alive? I know in some works this often leads to a man vs. machine type of situation, but as long as they don’t try to kill us, I think it would be pretty freaking cool.

The other thing the movie addresses when it comes to human/artificial intelligence relationships is the differences between the two. For example, if you are friends with something/someone that can do hundreds – if not thousands – of things at once does that affect the relationship? Does that something/someone become bored by you or think of itself as above you and the rest of humanity? What about when it comes to dating? Can something like that be satisfied with one partner? Is it “wrong” if it can’t be? It makes sense if you take the emotion out of it and look at it practically. If something can talk to/interact with more than one person – or another artificially creating entity – at a time isn’t it kind of logical that it would need a little more than the average person to be mentally, emotionally, and intellectually stimulated?
These are the kinds of issues that good science fiction explores. That’s what I love about the genre.

Unfortunately, there was just something about this movie that wasn’t doing it for me. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the parts that were supposed to move me or make me question things, just didn’t grab me. I just wasn’t feeling it. I can’t put it any other way. I’m not smart or eloquent enough, but that’s how I feel. The movie did have some funny parts and I actually said, “I want one” in reference to an operating system that smart that you can interact with it as if it were a person on the phone, but emotionally speaking the movie just didn’t move me. I thought was bland in that sense.
I also didn’t care for the look and feel of the movie. It looked like a commercial or music video. There was something about the colors, shapes, and styles of clothing that made me feel like I was watching two hour version of a MAC commercial. When you couple that with the fact that I did not feel very drawn into this movie’s story, it felt like a classic case of style over substance.

Another thing I didn’t care for was the detail the movie went with the “sex” scenes. I felt it was one of those instances in which less is more. The movies should have implied the intimate parts of Teddy and Samantha’s relationship. I didn’t need to hear a play-by-play.  Some of them went on for way too long too! It was really comfortable.

One final thing that stood out to me was the look of the characters. I know it was supposed to be the future and the characters were supposed to look like they were from another era, but some of them looked like something out of a Saturday Night Live skit. I couldn’t take Amy Adams character seriously whenever she showed up. She looked like a caricature, not a character.

This movie had some funny moments. I laughed out loud more than a few times. It also had some compelling ideas. The concept and story screamed of something I would like. I mean, this is something that – based on my tastes – I should really be in to. But ultimately, I was pretty disappointed by this movie. I wanted to like it, but I didn’t.

Rating: Thumbs down.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on May 23, 2014.

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