Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 4 out 5 Stars
Rated R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity
Now playing at CineArts Santana Row in San Jose, California:
Wasn’t there an episode of “The Big Bang Theory” where Raj falls in love with Siri?
Spike Jonze, most notably known for his direction, writes and directs this futuristic tale of a lonely man named Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) who interestingly enough works for a dot-com, where his job is to ghostwrite hand written letters (mostly love letters) to the significant others of those who request them. In the midst of a divorce, he finds romantic companionship with a newly created computer operating system named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) an operating system that is self aware and ever evolving.
The two aspects which impressed me the most:
1. Jonze constructs the most technologically accurate depiction of the future I’ve seen in recent years. It’s the little things really. From the use of voice controlled computer systems to create documents rather than a keyboard, to the countless sequences of crowds walking around outside, never interacting with each other, but instead carrying on conversations via a bluetooth device, are all brilliant touches if only because Jonze doesn’t go over-the-top with things. There has been no World War 3, nor have robots taken over the world. This is a nearly recognizable future with facilities, utilities and mannerisms I could see emerging within the next decade.
2. Scarlet Johansson’s vocal performance and how amazingly weighted it is. Though we never see her body, her presence becomes the most important entity in the room throughout. Her feelings are all too real and more importantly, we feel what she’s feeling. I know what you’re saying. She’s just talking, how powerful could her performance actually be? And to that I would reply: Johansson’s performance in “Her” is the single best of her career.
Here’s the problem: I imagine that on paper “Her” comes across as brave and innovative. But visually, the second I thought things would become unintentionally silly, they did. And after said moment, it was hard for me to take anything this movie had to say seriously, no matter how great the ending was. Allow me to explain: If you’ve seen the trailers, there is a point where Theodore wishes (out loud) that he could touch Samantha. And Samantha replies suggestively, “How would you touch me?” This cyber innuendo comes across as weird in the trailer and in the film (no matter how necessary to the story the sequence is) it comes off as even stranger, as it becomes clear that the “Her” film experiment isn’t going to work as well as Jonze probably imagined it would. And from there, even though “Her” still contains a strong aura of impressive questioning, the film stalls out a few more times when it attempts to address relationship issues more applicable to something teen angsty, along the lines of Twilight”. Let’s put it this way, it comes across as really awkward when a computer with a female voice is depicted as being jealous.
Final Thought: Now obviously this concept leaves the door open for an adult humor remark such as: Aren’t all men already in love with their computers? But, because this film doesn’t take itself Ridley Scott serious, as there is a comedic tone throughout which alleviates some of the silliness a human and machine love story would’ve brought to the table if it were directed as a heavy drama, and the fact that Jonze chooses to layer his central theme of human interaction above all, by asking some pretty challenging questions (through thought provoking dialogue) regarding love and relationships, “Her” is transformed into a truly fresh love story, with a perfect touch of sci-fi.
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