Her Poster

So I’d heard a lot about Her, and after a month of waiting it finally made its way to South Africa. After the credits started rolling, all I could really say is… well… that was a bit underwhelming…

Set in the near future, Her is the story of Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix), a young lonely writer who has divorced from his wife and is going through the final steps of the divorce process. He sees an ad for a new artificially intelligent operating system while returning home from work one day. The ad pushes the idea that it’s not just an OS, but a digital consciousness. His curiousity is piqued, so he buys it and discovers that the claims that the ad makes are true. His computers operating system is not only an operating system, but she talks, feels, and even has a name, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), which she chooses for herself. As Samantha grows and learns Theodore finds himself becoming more drawn to her, but how can someone fall in love with someone that possibly isn’t real?

The Good

  • All the performances are top notch. You spend most of the time watching Jaoquin Phoenix basically talking to himself, and the fact that you don’t get bored has to say something for the performance he delivered. Scarlett Johansson’s voice work is amazing, and you never doubt for a moment that she captures the emotions of the bodiless Samantha. Amy Adams (who plays Amy in the film) is also great, but when isn’t she?
  • Film had an interesting look and some really beautiful cinematography
  • Complex issues and characters
  • Unexpectedly funny, but it’s used sparingly so don’t expect this to be a laugh a minute
  • Some excellent “one liners” regarding love and life

The OK

  • Fairly simple plot
  • I found Theodore’s neediness annoying at times

The Bad

  • The ending was unexpectedly flat…

Movie Opinion (WARNING: MINOR  SPOILERS BELOW – Skip to the final paragraph if you don’t want anything ruined)

Her is an interesting movie on many levels, but it does retread a lot of themes that have been covered in other movies. Now don’t get me wrong, Her presents these ideas in a fairly fresh way, but I was honestly expecting more from it considering all the hype it’s been getting.

Firstly, there’s the issues around people and technology, and how we are getting more and more attached to it. I will readily admit that I spend most of my free time interacting with various technological devices, but as I noted in a recent writeup of mine about teenagers and cellphones, I feel that we are moving into a strange world where younger people prefer to interact with each other through machines than directly face to face. Her doesn’t shove this idea in your face but it’s definitely there with the way people are seen walking, seemingly talking to themselves, or how later in the film you will see characters ignoring people in order to spend some time with their OS’s.

Secondly, it deals with issues regarding artificial intelligence, in particular the importance of having a physical body and the development of a being who learns and grows more human. These ideas have all been done before, and I have to say that I think other movies have handled it better.

For example, part of the problem with this film is that I didn’t feel that sad when the inevitable tragic ending comes along. Other movies which have non-human characters that become more human through their interaction with people include Terminator 2, Metropolis, and The Iron Giant, and all these movies had me choking back tears at the end. Throughout Her Samantha tells Theodore about how he’s helped her grow, but we never really “see” that. If you want me to feel that this relationship is real, then you need to show me how Samantha is growing because of Theodore, so that when tragedy strikes I feel something for poor Theodore.

Thirdly, there are obviously a lot of issues around love and relationships. We each have our own ideas about what we expect out of love and the people we are involved with, and it’s how these expectations conflict with each other that makes love so hard. There’s also a lot of subtle discussion around mothers. Theodore has some issues with his mother, Samantha becomes in many ways, part mother to Theodore, and Amy is a woman who obviously has some yearning towards motherhood when you watch her play a game she designs about being a mother. There’s also multiple failed marriages, the sense of technology putting distance between people, and a lot of other important ideas that are discussed.

Overall, I found Her to be great during the first two acts. You really connect with the characters, and the many issues (a lot of which I haven’t mentioned) that the film brings up are really interesting, even if some of them have been done before. However, the final act lacks the emotional impact that you’d expect from this kind of film and it really left me feeling a bit disappointed.

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