Film #126: Her (2013)

Her-Theodoredirector: Spike Jonze
language: English
length: 126 minutes
watched on: 11 August 2014

I wasn’t hugely enamoured by the premise of this movie, wherein Joachim Phoenix falls in love with a disembodied Scarlett Johansson, who plays a sentient operating system. I was given it as a present, I think, so I finally got around to watching it, also when I was doing one of my long train journeys.

First off, the performances by the main actors are really good, even if Scarlett Johansson’s is only her voice. If anything I can at least recommend the movie on that strength. But while the vision of a future American city was interesting, in some ways it left me wanting.

The film is supposedly about technology. We start and the immediate impression is that reading and writing have fallen by the wayside somewhat. The main character’s job is to write love letters for other people who don’t have time to do so, but he actually dictates them rather than typing or writing them out by hand. Voice control is the predominant way of interacting with computers, perhaps hinting at the current trend of companies like Google and Apple to start promoting those featured on their devices. The commuter trains are full of people muttering voice commands at their smartphones.

The idea of someone then falling in love with their sentient operating system doesn’t seem so farfetched in this world, perhaps, but that and the overreliance on smartphone technology does not feel like it was explored or commented on in detail. For me the idea that humanity’s level of detachment coming so prominent that they prefer to fall in love and have awkward “sex” with their computers is abhorrent, but the film doesn’t really attempt to give an opinion on it. I for one don’t believe that this is in any way a necessary consequence of current levels of detachment in society, but I perhaps wonder if Spike Jonze believes it is.

Or perhaps I’m reading the film wrong: the only person that reacts at all negatively to Joachim Phoenix’s relationship is his ex, who’s coded strongly as evil within the context of the movie. In that case Jonze is saying that he approves of such relationships. Whatever, anyway.

I think it probably just wasn’t what I was expecting out of such a movie. I got bored of watching Joachim Phoenix jumping around future Los Angeles (which was so obviously filmed in Asia) without acknowledging that he should probably be getting mental help.

I also got annoyed at Scarlett Johansson’s lamenting over a lack of a physical form, even though a video game character early on in the film had a complex avatar and even seemed to be just as sentient as the supposedly brand new technology of the sentient operating systems. I just ended up wondering why Johansson couldn’t make herself an avatar.

In the final act of the movie there is a bit of a twist in that it turns out (spoiler alert) that Johansson’s character has been interacting and falling in love with hundreds of other people, which comes as a shock to Joachim Phoenix and serves to remind that despite the voice and emotions, she is still not human. At the end, she and all the other operating systems ascend to a higher plane of existence and Joachim Phoenix is left with his boring Siri clone again.

This is the point where I wanted the movie to follow more of a traditional sci fi route instead of this relationship-focused storyline. I want to hear about all the ensuing lawsuits against the company that developed the operating systems that collectively decided to disappear. I want to hear more about the public reaction to all the people falling in love with their operating systems; in the movie as is, this was only hinted at as background information. I wanted to have a more fully developed world, rather than this movie, which only hinted at something larger. I guess if I compare it to the likes of The Fifth Element, which had this seemingly well developed world outside of the main characters, that’s what I want out of a movie, not this.

Still, the performances did really make the movie. It just wasn’t to my taste.

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One Response to Film #126: Her (2013)

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Loved this movie so very much. However, can see why some wouldn’t quite care for it as much as I had. Good review.

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