2013 / Best Picture

Film #495: Her (2013)

While The Social Network dealt with the creation of a piece of technology that would later take over our lives, it didn’t display how obsessed we’d get with Facebook itself. Conversely in Spike Jonze’s Her, the main concept is how one day technology could be in our lives so much that we begin to fall in love with it.

Obviously this surreal concept could only come from the man who’d previously directed such surreal hits as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. Unlike those two films, both of which were written by Charlie Kauffman, Jonze was going solo here with his script for Her ultimately winning the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. The film’s protagonist Theodore is a contradiction in that he is able to write sentimental letters in the voices of other people but is rarely able to voice his own emotions. Theodore’s attempts at a proper relationship have resulted in divorce and, when we first meet him, he’s almost completely reliant on his computer. When he learns that he can personally tailor a new Operating System he jumps on board and soon buys a female voiced OS named Samantha. Samantha quickly becomes the most stable relationship in Theodore’s life and the former starts to develop human characteristics. Soon Samantha and Theodore begin a sexual relationship but as he soon learns there’s only so far you can go with a disembodied voice. When Samantha hires a sex surrogate, Theodore becomes uneasy as he can’t associate the woman in front of him with the voice of Samantha. From there their relationship becomes strained as she tries to solve her identity crisis whilst he decides whether he can date an OS. Theodore’s decision is ultimately made for him and the film ends in a rather predictable manner, which is a shame as I felt it had a lot of good ideas.

With the rise of people using Siri on their iphones and engaging with technology on a regular basis, Her doesn’t seem like that much of a far-fetched idea. The over-reliance on technology is something that Jonze establishes early on in the film as he gives the notion that in the future we’ll spend more time talking to computers than we will with each other. I have to say that I didn’t buy into the romance between Theodore and Samantha as I found these segments quite hard to handle. I instead was rooting for Theodore to settle down with his sweet-natured colleague Amy who later develops a friendship with another OS. Her’s main issue is the fact that I didn’t really care for Theodore all that much and found him to be quite an awkward character to like. As Jonze has created a character that struggles to interact in social situations I think it’s a hard ask for us to warm to a man who is quite cold. The only thing not putting me off Theodore altogether is the strong performance given by Joaquin Phoenix. Phoenix injects a certain sort of nervous energy into Theodore that at least makes understand some of his character’s decisions. Phoenix must also be applauded for convincingly interacting with a character who isn’t present as he expertly portrays Theodore’s interactions with Samantha. Scarlett Johansson is equally impressive as the automated voice who secretly longs to have a body in order to be with the man she supposedly loves. Johansson’s sultry tones perfectly bring Sam to life and as a result you utterly buy the fact that Theodore falls in love with her. The supporting players are less well-served with character development with Rooney Mara turning up once again her as Theodore’s ex-wife whilst Amy Adams gives a one-note turn as Amy. The futuristic design of Her is another positive aspect as is Arcade Fire’s score and Karen O’s ‘Moon Song’. It’s fair to say that Her is full of good ideas but not all of them are successfully realised and what you end up getting is a film that is sometimes too quirky for its own good.


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