Director: Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pratt, Portia Doubleday
Rated: R (Language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity)
A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need.
By Cole Schneider
A world has been created in “Her” that seems frighteningly imminent, especially steeped in its brand of weird comedy. The film probes a psychology borrowed from an entire history of philosophy. In the film, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) falls for his operating system, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) who is something like a future version of Siri.
She’s not a computer, but a consciousness. It’s the kind of setup that might pique the interest of Sartre and the existentialists. Freud would have appreciated the subtle voice of the mom that is present, but only virtually. The characters explore reality through physics in a way that Heisenberg would note. Zen philosopher Alan Watts is resurrected to bring a voice for Eastern philosophy. Throughout, there is an exploration of the function of sensory response in a way that might have interested Hume and the empiricists. Sex is considered in a manner, which St. Augustine may have been appalled, yet satisfied.
As a matter of fact, the one truly successful relationship is platonic. It’s on this level–that of relationship–that “Her” really finds itself. Both Theodore and Samantha wrestle for control and intimacy, but bypass the need for true personability. What is the result of their selfish, leading behavior? Is it sustainable in a future world where humanity interacts with itself so much less, and often using a surrogate? Eventually the film realizes that the answer lies on some spiritual plane beyond both Theodore’s natural plane and Samantha’s existence in the cloud.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
By Matt Greene
“It makes me sad to think my feelings are just programming”. This line is spoken by a robot, yet speaks to the very core of our fears, our ticks, and our basic human condition. Her is remarkable in that sense: capturing our very essence through the guise of a sci-fi romance between a man and his Siri-like girlfriend. It touches on our fears of dullness, our searching for ways to fill the void, even our questions on what makes a relationship worthwhile. More importantly, it’s gorgeous, gently hilarious and beautifully scored. Her is the most romantic, relevant, and personally impacting movie of the year.
Samantha, voiced brilliantly by Johansson, is incredibly engaging and real, the most human non-human in film since HAL 3000. She is the center of this beautiful, perfectly realized and subtly recognizable future. Jonze hasn’t just updated the tech in this future, but even the fashion, jobs, and entertainment are innovative yet believable, all of which is used to effectively impact the story, leaving us with the full gambit of emotions to deal with.
This easily could’ve been a heavy-handed condemnation of technology. Instead, it trusts its audience’s intuition, using subtle touches like background characters who only interact with their phone. It’s simply pointing out where we are at and where we are headed, good and bad together. Through the main characters we see our steady descent into disassociation, but in the end Her affirms what we really need in our life and our love. It’s a funny, sad, and beautiful movie that will stick with me for years to come.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars