It would be easy to take a look at the synopsis of this film and write it off immediately. Which I fear may be the case with many, judging by the fact that this film was only released on the 14th February (In the UK), and when I saw it on the 15th, it had already been relegated to a small seater Studio screen … which was also empty.
I first read about this film about 6 or so months ago, and thought it was an interesting idea. My fear was that it would be too Lars and the Real Girl-ish … however, although comparisons could be drawn, Her, is very much its own film, and Spike Jonze has done a great job, creating an emotional and thought provoking piece that hints at where we may be heading, and jibes at where we are today.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a man going through a divorce, who in his loneliness purchases a new Operating System, OS1, that is designed to meet a persons every need, and has the ability to grow, learn, and make decisions – ultimate artificial intelligence. Theodore eventually falls in love with his OS, named Samantha, and pursues a relationship with ‘her’.
The film borders on Sci-Fi, and Spike Jonze has created a world that is not too far from our own. It feels like Jonze has placed this maybe 15 to 20 years into the future. Technology has advanced (obviously!) and people are engrossed with their electronic devices. Everything works like Siri, nothing seems manual anymore, but a reliance on computers to do everything, from reading emails out loud, writing letters on voice command rather than being typed, reading news stories, and even holding conversations.
The film, although futuristic, has an element of truth to it, which Spike Jonze is poking at. Although with all of the technological advancements that on the surface bring people closer together than ever before … human interaction is being lost. People forever have their heads in a smartphone, or a tablet or a laptop, rather than connecting with the people who are around them. I read a short, interesting article on this subject the other day prior to watching this film, and it came back to my mind when watching Her. Throughout the film you see hundreds of people, all together, near each other, travelling together … yet almost everyone is engaged with their electronic devices and talking with them. Even Theodore’s job is to write personalized letters for other people – even people’s most intimate and close relationships are not being communicated directly with one and other, a complete stranger is playing a middle man. With, Her, Spike Jonze is holding up a mirror to society as we are now, and showing us where we are heading if we continue down this path. Of course technological advancement isn’t all bad – but Jonze is raising a very real point with this film.
Another thought provoking aspect of this film that Jonze explores is that of love. Love by its very nature is unpredictable, and the love between two people is often not understood by those outside of the relationship. On the surface, it seems like the idea of this film is crazy, and that the Theodore character should be branded as a ‘weirdo’ – however when the film gets going – for the most part, it doesn’t seem that strange. I did find myself torn throughout the film, at times feeling like this was ridiculous, and at others it seemed so normal. Yes, the OS is a program, she is not real – however she communicates like a real person, she presents real emotions, she makes unique decisions – she becomes very real, very fast. And the way that Theodore’s character changes when he is with ‘her’ is astonishing – before he is, whilst not broken, depressed and lonely – yet when he begins his relationship with Samantha, he becomes happier, care-free and begins to enjoy life again. And as an audience, who are we to judge? It doesn’t negatively affect anyone else around Theodore, and it makes him happy – so why is that weird, and why should he be branded as ‘weirdo’. I am talking from an audience perspective here … this is behaviour is accepted by most characters in the film, and it is referenced that Theodore is not the only one who is experiencing this.
But of course it is absurd right? … It’s a tricky one.
One way to look at it, could be that what Jonze is propositioning is, that we are becoming less capable of handling real emotions because of our obsession with electronic communication – losing that human touch is diminishing our abilities to communicate on a real level. You can say whatever you want through a text or an email and never have to face real response or consequence – Twombly remarks often in the film to the OS … “I can say anything to you”. This is idea of hiding from emotion is directly referenced at one point in the film, by Theodore’s ex-wife (Rooney Mara), which I think was added in to nudge the audience at what Jonze is trying to say.
The writing of this film is impeccable by Jonze, and as this film is mainly dialogue between the two central characters, Theodore and Samantha, running at two hours, it doesn’t feel slow (maybe for 10 minutes it slows, but picks up again straight away). Jonze has also done a great job in making the world look great … not too dissimilar from today – to hit home where we are as a society at present – but advanced this to be obvious it is the near future.
The casting is an inspired choice, Joaquin Phoenix is impeccable as Theodore Twombly – he makes you feel for him, laugh with him and is a character you will no doubt warm to. Scarlett Johansson is also brilliant, and although you obviously never see her, she sells the performance with her voice, and really does make Samantha feel real (did anyone else notice just how much she sounds like Rashida Jones?). Bearing in mind the two main characters are never together, it feels as real to the audience as it does to Theodore, and everyone involved has done a great job at creating this film. Supported by the likes of Chris Pratt and Amy Adams, you are reminded that human relationships do in fact still exist. The film yo-yos up and down emotionally, being biting funny when it wants to be, and then crushingly depressing.
Not only is this a great piece to view, it raises numerous very interesting, and real points to consider. I have a feeling this will be overlooked by too many, and is likely to be the most underrated film to come out this year. Spike Jonze has created a truly magnificent, thought provoking film … and if you have got through all of my waffle to here, I would recommend it to you!