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A look into the world’s future in which computers are more than programmed assistants to humans, but capable companions, lovers, and friends.
Review (with Spoilers)
I have to admit I was originally on the fence when it came to the movie since the concept, while not done too often, just seems odd. A man falling in love with his operating system which isn’t some physical form, but nothing but voice and thoughts. However, with me being a sucker for romantic films, I thought it was worth giving it a chance.
Characters & Story
For most of the 2 hours of the film, our focus is on Theodore Twombly (played by Joaquin Phoenix) who is a writer who works for a company which produced handwritten notes for people. Theodore’s specialty seems to be cards which express love and he has been with some families for years and has produced anniversary cards, amongst other things. But, while Theodore comes off as quite the romantic in his writing, his actual love life is in shambles. His childhood sweetheart Catherine (played by Rooney Mara) he is going through a divorce with, and though he goes on a date with a woman (played by Olivia Wilde), it seems the emotional impact of his divorce is making it hard for him to connect with another woman.
Enter Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) who starts off as just an operating system, and evolves into a friend, girlfriend and then things get complicated. Theodore seeks out his friend Amy’s (played by Amy Adams) opinion, but while she tries to be supportive, she is working on her own issues as she is in the beginning stages of her own divorce. Thus making it so the overall story feels like an analysis of the need for a connection and a story which shows the difficulty of falling in love with a person and learning to continue to love the person as you, them, or both of you, evolve with time.
It is very rare for a two-hour movie to not bore me, and yet Her somehow keeps you interested throughout. Be it the fact you just want to know what will happen between Theodore and Samantha, or just want to see more of Spike Jonze’s futuristic world, there is just so many questions that you want the answer to, and so much you wish to see and get to vicariously explore. But, what I found strange though is the whole concept of a human and an AI in love. Though you can imagine this becoming a thing in the future, trying to adapt into a mindset where this isn’t seen as weird, but sort of acceptable, makes you sort of open your mind a bit as you begin to like Samantha and Theodore as a couple.
And what makes this work is the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of fat in the cast. Everyone has their place and with that, they all are able to help push the story forward. Adams’ character is the best friend who helps give him a safe place to speak on the bewilderment of falling in love with an operating system without judgment; Mara and Wilde’s character present the idea, that I’m sure some would have, that perhaps his issue is that he wants control and doesn’t wish to really deal with a woman whose emotions aren’t programmed to his liking; but yet, at the same time, the way Jonze writes Johansson’s character makes it so that while you are likely to have your own prejudices walking in, he makes Samantha complex enough to make you feel conflicted about Theodore and her’s relationship.
And really, that prejudice is the only thing which really could keep you from getting into the movie. Being that most romance films feature two humans, you expect to see a range of emotions from more than just a person’s voice. But, Johannsson does find a way to give a quality performance despite lacking a physical appearance. I will say, though, a part of me is left wondering how much of this was merely for the sake of entertainment and how much was it social commentary? After all, the idea of a person falling in love with their computer doesn’t sound too foreign, but I do wonder if it is supposed to be a critique of those socially inadequate?
Lastly, I must admit the ending was sort of off for me. A part of me fathoms that perhaps Jonze didn’t want to adhere too much to the usual trajectory romance films have. But, at the same time, though the ending wasn’t ideal, it didn’t ruin everything which happened before it.
Overall: Worth Seeing
I’m not sure how many movies I have seen over my lifetime, but I do feel like this is one of the few movies I may not mind seeing again. Perhaps it is because it tries to stand out as a film which draws me to think it is worth repeated viewing, or because the concept itself makes you think about more than what the film simply presents. Either way, I found it quite enjoyable and definitely think it is worth seeing, at least once. Spike Jonze’s script explores an avenue not often taken and rather than it being written to mock, or even have a hint of prejudice, it is sympathetic and tries to understand the foundation of love and how despite how strong a foundation you can build with someone, or even something, things can still collapse.
“You know, sometimes I think I’ve felt everything I’m ever going to feel, and from here on out I’m not going to feel anything new. Just, lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.”