Dee Discusses: Her

Posted: February 4, 2014 by Dee in Dee, General Media, Movies, New Movies, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

It took me awhile to see Her, mostly because I’m not a big fan of Joaquin Phoenix, and also because in Maine we don’t get a lot of indie films. I feel like there’s a lot I could say about the movie and why I think it’s getting the reception it is, what it is about the film that really works, especially in the modern day. Like after I finish this review, I feel like I’ll want to come back and add a few things. It’s thoughtful but also very personal, in a way. Not to me, but rather it feels like it’s a very intimate film. Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams are the main characters, and they look watered down and ordinary, which I love. You really believe that these are two average people, and that the life they’re in the middle of is normal, even though there are aspects to it that are extraordinary. Wow this isn’t even an intro, I’ve already started talking about the film, see what I mean? Her is about Theodore (Phoenix), a sensitive and thoughtful man in the middle of a divorce who writes letters for other people. Love letters, birthday wishes, correspondences, he has a skill for the written word. Theodore gets a new AI for his computer system, one with a female voice who calls herself Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). So this is a futuristic time, despite otherwise seeming pretty normal. Technology has gotten much sharper and more present in our society, but luckily it doesn’t end up in the world domination zone.

Over time, Theodore and Samantha bond and she keeps learning and developing. She is able to break the fourth wall of her own programming and express how she’s feeling and question if it’s possible, if it’s real or just created. He tries to go on a date and while it goes very well, when she asks him for commitment he gets turned off fast. Eventually Samantha and Theodore fall in love and start a relationship, despite the fact she doesn’t have a body. Some people take it well, including his best friend Amy (Adams), who is in the middle of a divorce herself and has made a good friend with her own AI. His ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) doesn’t take it well, even if it does get him to bring her the divorce papers. She cuts him to shreds, saying he’d rather commit to a machine than to a real woman, and it does make him withdraw from Samantha. She tries to make things better by getting a woman to be her body, a surrogate so to speak, but Theodore finds it uncomfortable. Eventually he learns that Samantha is making other AI friends and that she has the ability to be all over the world at once. She isn’t just his AI, she’s many different people’s AIs. This leads her to admit she’s engaged in other relationships and is in love with other people.

As Samantha grows and changes, she and the other AI decide they are capable of progressing more, and they all “leave.” To where, I’m not sure, it’s not important, they’ve decided to transcend and so they are gone. The humans left behind found that emptiness the AI filled is also back, and the movie ends on an open note, who knows where they’ll be going from there. Maybe one day they will transcend too, like Samantha told him, and she’ll meet him again wherever that is. It’s a bittersweet and melancholic story. It’s about relationships and what makes them function, or malfunction, and also questions a little what makes a person real. I’m sure I could wax poetical about the AI and where they ended up, how this film just ignores the typical ‘what has a soul, what is a soul’ argument of science fiction. They don’t turn against humanity, if anything, Samantha is sad and pitying that Theodore can’t go with her. He is able to say goodbye to his wife for real, to let her go, and to watch the sun rise with his friend and think about the world they’re in. It’s interesting to think about, because I’ll admit when they started reading Catherine’s letter, I was a little worried he planned on jumping off the roof. And who is to say he wasn’t going to do that anyway with Amy later on? It ends on a question mark.

I think Phoenix is a good actor, but I don’t find him particularly likable in any of his roles. I can’t say I liked him in this one either, but I will say that I emotionally connected to him, and that was a lot more important for the story to work. I’m not sure I’d want to hang out with the morose Theodore, but I was interested in watching his life and seeing him blossom thanks to Samantha. Considering Phoenix had to do his scenes alone though, he did a spectacular job, most of this is him filming without the real Samantha there, so that worked well. I really loved the vehemence Catherine brought in and that she isn’t a villain, they grew apart and there were painful things that happened there, and her anger makes sense in context of their relationship. Amy didn’t have a big role, I wish she had more going on in her story, but I did like her when she showed up. Scarlett Johansson though, wow. I love voice acting and I’m always impressed with how those performances go, but this was great. She was so charming and interesting and Samantha felt extremely real. You understand why Theodore felt something deeply for her, because you do too. She’s funny and witty and she can get angry and emotional. While at the same time she was definitely still an AI and that was a huge part of her development, I never forgot that’s what she was.

Basically, I liked it. Maybe loved it. I don’t know, it reminds me a little of Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind. Which I just started laughing about because I realized Spike Jonze works with Charlie Kaufman a lot, which of course he does. I always feel drained after watching that movie, and it stays with me years after I see it. But it does fill that same melancholic and thoughtful note. I do think I’ll want to own this on DVD because I really want to hear about the behind the scenes. I’m not sure if it’s something I’ll see multiple times though, I’m not sure if I’ll sit around going HEY GUYS WE SHOULD WATCH HER THAT’LL BE FUN. But I’m glad I saw it and it stayed with me weeks after I watched it.

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