January 10, 2014


Spike Jonze, 2013
Set in the near future in downtown Los Angeles, Theodore (Jaoquin Phoenix) is a lonely man still struggling with his fairly recent divorce to his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). He discovers a newly released operating system named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) that once installed quickly familiarizes itself with his life. He forms a connection with the OS that grows quite quickly into a more romantic direction, filling the void that was in his life prior to installing her.

A high concept film that put in the wrong hands, could fall into pieces. And it doesn't with Jonze at the helm, and why would it? He has already proven that he is right guy for making such a picture, directing other outrageous high concept pictures like an obsession with Malkovichian mind-control in Being John Malkovich, or directing the complicated Adaptation which follows screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's struggles with writer's block while trying to adapt Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief. This time he goes it alone without the help of Kaufman, and still manages to maintain a similar quality with his previous films.

The futuristic L.A. is quite beautiful. Urban curvature, a certain reddish glow, holographic imagery, green spaces. People shuffle about, rather closed off from each other with their ear-buds in. Actually a not-so-evolved version of our current iPhone culture, yet generations ahead. You settle into this world quite quickly, and when Theodore encounters the new Operating System it feels fit for the times. This is a society in which technology has been long interwoven, as humorously shown when Theodore is on a blind-date with a woman (played by Olivia Wilde) when he discusses some her interests that he had already seen on her online profile, and rather than be creeped out she considers it rather sweet.

The stigma's have been washed out of society. The personality is created, very much on it's own, and evolves quickly. The OS is basically a drastically evolved version of Siri. Rather than a computerized voice speaking to him, it's a sultry female voice. A voice with warmth, vulnerability, desire. Theodore finds his lonely nights are no longer so lonely, and his daytime hours are enhanced. The film examines some real philosophical questions. Is it considered real love when it's with a non-physical entity? Can it really love you back? While Her doesn't hide it's satire of our current digitally obsessed culture, it doesn't beat us over the head with it while maintaining the adequate amount of comedy blended with drama. Some of the ideas are actually quite frightening in a sense. How comfortable can you feel talking to a digital entity that absorbs knowledge so rapidly? How can you just turn off your own skepticism that the voice on the other side isn't just preying on your very easy-to-identify human vulnerabilities? And while Theodore is conflicted, he is still engaged with Samantha. He loves her. And she loves him? And in a sense, how can he not love her? He has a beautiful voice in his ear that is watching with him through every moment, big or small. She sees what he sees. She hears what he hears. She remembers it all. She can play the perfect song at a moments notice, or even create a new one for him. She can optimize the moment. She can use her various algorithms to sense his sensitivity. Samantha's informational capabilities are quite endless, but of course there's the ongoing struggle given the lack of pure consciousness. It's a love story of man and machine, and Jonze provides so much depth to the dynamic that he makes it very intriguing.

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