On the surface, Spike Jonze’s latest film Her is about a man who forms an intimate relationship with a computer; but dig deeper to find that
On the surface, Spike Jonze’s latest film Her is about a man who forms an intimate relationship with a computer; but dig deeper to find that Her is a creative balance between quirky romantic comedy and thought-provoking social commentary.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a writer who is trying to come to terms with his depression after going through a divorce. Theodore lives in a futuristic L.A. and goes to work writing personalized love letters. With Spike Jonze directing, Her has very distinct, stylized look with a very vibrant and colorful palette.
We see Theodore through his day-to-day life in the city, but It quickly becomes apparent Theodore is lonely. He avoids extended social interaction, he ignores calls, we see him engrossed in video games and he resorts to automated phone sex for personal gratification.
Things start to change for Theodore when he comes across a new Operating System called OS 1.
OS 1 is meant to personalize itself to the users needs, seamlessly integrating technology into daily life. He boots up the program and is greeted by an automated disembodied voice that calls herself Samantha. The voice is not as robotic as devices we know such as “Siri.” Thanks to the very emotive voice work of Scarlett Johansson, Samantha sounds very real and genuine. She explains that she is a computer program that was given “intuition.”
At first Theodore has Samantha performing her intended tasks such as organizing his computer files and automatically checking his emails. Things start to escalate when Theodore realizes that Samantha is more dimensional than the surface of a screen. After a few tender conversations and little adventures to the beach or the carnival, the pair find themselves in a serious relationship.
While the basic plot is so ridiculous, the film could have easily tried to bank on the quirky concept to sell itself. The wall street journal writes, “In other hands, his premise could have been a clever gimmick and little more. But he draws us into Theodore’s world, then develops it brilliantly, by playing everything scrupulously straight.”
Her explores almost every possibility of the concept. The film wants you to think and It’s not afraid to tackle big questions. How does a computer and a Human have sex? If a computer can feel does that make it a being? Can technology satisfy all of our psychological needs? Can we live in total isolation and be happy?
When the movie isn’t being philosophical, it’s intimate. The Washington Post writes, “Jonze’s film doesn’t make the comedic conceit or technology the focus.” Her treats the relationship of Theodore and Samantha seriously. During the movie I believed that both characters were in love. You feel for Theodore when he is depressed or questioning if it’s normal to have feelings for a computer program. But you also feel for Samantha when she questions if her emotions are real or just complex simulation.
Her also portrays typical emotions surrounding relationships, such as jealousy, embarrassment, but also joy. Her is never heavy-handed and handles topics the appropriate amount of drama or comedy. Did I mention this movie is funny? To reference the Wall Street Journal again, “Mr. Jonze approaches perfection in the department of deadpan humor.”