A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.
Director: Spike Jonze
The original synopsis for Her when it was in pre-production was something along the line of: “A man falls in love with his phone operating system”. Okay, so, a guy falls in love with Siri, and the story is being written by the director of Being John Malkovich and Adapation., so it’s gonna be some weird, mind bending experience. I was honestly excited to see it, but when trailers started coming out and full plot summaries were revealed, it turns out that this is a more serious, in-depth, true, loving story than I ever imagined. It’s a love story of our near future; a prediction of what is just around the corner.
The guy? We know. Single, closer to fifty than thirty, still hanging on to his past relationship, anti-social, but smart, compassionate, and funny. Someone we can root for. The technology? We pretty much already have it. Everything is voice activated, and entire tech systems are held in a tiny, ~4 inch device. We have the capabilities to have everything we see in this film, but in this world, it’s commercialized and standardized, something we may very well see in the next ten to twenty years. Overall, we get very connected to the story within minutes, just as we would with one taking place in the present.
Joaquin Phoenix plays our protagonist, Theodore Twombly [described above]. After showcasing for us what his life and the technology holds, in the form of playing melancholy music, checking emails, reading the news, and having phone sex all in the same medium, he stumbles upon a new operating system that creates an individual personality for the consumer. After a short interview, he is introduced to Samantha [self-chosen name], his operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.
Sam isn’t just an operator, though. She says hello, she asks him how he’s doing, she asks him what’s wrong, she inquires, she’s curious. She maybe even cares about Theodore. This isn’t Siri, but something, someone, much more. Thoedore is smiling more, he’s having fun, he’s talking and boding with Sam more than we’ve seen him do with anyone else. “I feel like I can say anything to you”, he tells her. And when he asks Sam if she feels the same, she actually says “No… like personal or embarrassing thoughts I have, I have like a million today”. “I’m becoming much more than what they programmed” she says.
But Theodore’s dating life still suffers. He can’t commit to people he enjoys spending time with. At the end of the day, however, he’s got Sam. And Sam wants to learn, and she yearns to experience the little things. She wants to live. For a computer, Sam knows a hell of a lot, and the conversations and advice these two share are remarkably in depth and real and heartfelt. Jonze has a great perspective on the human experience that he shares through these characters, it’s a rare thing to experience on screen.
Seeing Phoenix after his “breakdown” has been a marvel. His performance in The Master was extraordinary, but this is something completely different. He’s happy, he’s lonely, he’s laughing, he’s sad; he’s a real person, like you or me. And he’s brilliant. Johansson is great too, for never being on screen. She’s always had a unique, sensual voice that is recognizable, and it’s a great casting to have her play Sam. It’s an interesting dynamic of performances since the two are performing apart from each other but in such an emotional, personal way.
The presentation of this movie, the color palette, the lighting, the framing and camera work, is all so well connected to create what I would call inspiring. It’s heartfelt and thoughtful and makes me feel like I’m laying on the beach with the sun wavering in my eyes, a breeze floating over, the smell of salt in the air. The experience is like a day-dream. It envelopes you in it’s own universe. And when the screen fades to black it feels like I was asleep, far away in some fantastic place. It’s just a lovely spectacle of a film. There’s a really touching soundtrack as well that pairs beautifully with the visuals and the dialogue.
I honestly just love this film. I’m not the most insightful and experienced guy when it comes to love and relationships, but this film just feels so fresh and unique and insightful. Maybe it’s because I’m just a young, impressionable twenty-something year old, but there were a lot of emotions and thoughts and ideas that I hadn’t seen expressed before on film. As the idea of falling in love with an operating system is new to us, it is new to the people in the film as well, and it was only when the characters on screen started pondering the legitimacy and silliness of such a thing that I started to question it myself, and some great questions are left to you as a viewer when the credits roll about relationships and people, and it makes you think. And I like that.
4/4 – Leave it to Spike Jonze to write a movie about a guy falling in love with a computer operating system, and end up being one of the most insightful, intriguing, touching, and lovable romances I’ve ever seen.