Her (2014)

HerIn 2025, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) spends his days writing personal letters for other people and his nights dreading his own pending divorce to estranged wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). Following the release of a new Operating System, marketed as the first ever to have artificial intelligence, Theodore takes a copy home and chooses for it a female identity (Scarlett Johansson). Self-titled Samantha, the OS learns quickly, fulfilling her duties to Theodore while also using the Internet to learn and grow at an unprecedented rate. The two make quick friends, and soon develop deeper, more romantic feelings for one another. Though at first reluctant to go public with their relationship, Theodore is encouraged to come clean when best friend Amy (Amy Adams) admits that she too has befriended her OS.

Directed by Spike Jones, and marking his first movie since 2009’s excellent Where The Wild Things Are, Her is also the first movie to be written exclusively by Jones himself. A project that took ten years to conceive and five months to write, it’s undoubtedly a film of great depth and complexity. The futuristic world Jones has created is well-observed and easy to relate to, and it only takes a relatively small leap of imagination to arrive at self-aware operating systems, ghost letter writers and fully interactive video games. It’s the early, user-friendly scenes that arguably work best; as Theodore commutes to work with outdated tech, skipping songs and skimming news with vocal commands, before being talked into deleting unneeded e-mails by a new and improved operating system.

Phoenix is terrific if taciturn as Theodore, a reclusive romantic who would sooner write to a customer’s wife than talk to a single woman face-to-face. This is a fact not lost on his soon-to-be ex-wife, who mocks him for his somewhat unconventional rebound relationship. The single scene shared by the two makes an enormous impression, as do Theodore’s intermittent interactions with Amy. She’s a budding documentary filmmaker who moonlights as a game developer. Adams brings great warmth to the film, acting as a constant counter to Theodore as her own romantic life goes through its ups and downs. In fact, the relationship between Theodore and Samantha is the only one that doesn’t ring entirely true. Phoenix is easy to empathise with, but he isn’t particularly sympathetic, though this may be a quirk of casting rather than a problem with the script, while Johansson struggles with a character that it is difficult to understand let alone wholeheartedly embrace.

In many ways it feels like a short film stretched awkwardly to feature length. The premise is intriguing and thought-provoking, and raises some important questions about the future of our relationship with technology, but Jones’ answers don’t always do those questions justice. When the honeymoon period is over, and Theodore and Samantha begin to grow apart (the former first, and the latter later on), the film begins to lose what little emotional resonance it had to begin with. Samantha’s interactions with the holographic protagonist of Theodore’s game are playful and witty, but as she begins to grow her social circle — mostly with nameless characters that don’t appear onscreen — she becomes more of a hypothetical construct than an engaging character in her own right. When Brian Cox shows up as a programme built by other programmes, the film finally and irreversibly severs its ties with reality.

Her really couldn’t be more different from Where The Wild Things Are, though both perhaps strike a similar tone; where Jones’ last film took ten lines of plot and filled the blanks with warmth and whimsy, charming audiences by appealing to their inner child, Her takes a relatively simple and universal love story and overthinks it. Her is intelligent and insightful, it’s well acted and beautifully directed, but it’s more likely to give you a headache than Wild Thing-sized warm fuzzies.

3.5-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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