Her—A Different Kind of Love Story
Views 63 | Time to read: 4 minutes | Uploaded: 2 - 4 - 2014 | By: Lindsay Call
At first glance, Spike Jonze’s love story “Her” seems odd. A man falling in love with his computer? Really? When presented with the bare bones of the story, most of the general population won’t go to see “Her,” either because the film’s premise seems weird, or they just don’t care.
Well, you should.
“Her” takes place in a not-too-distant future, where every citizen pays greater attention to what’s happening with their computers than to basic social interactions. A lonely writer, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), spends his days composing letters for a firm called beautifulhandwrittenletters.com, where one can pay to have a heartfelt sentiment written for a loved one.
Theodore separated from his wife several months ago, and despite interacting with the stories of thousands of people per day, he still feels completely alone. With the exception of a couple of work friends and a platonic friendship with Amy (Amy Adams), he feels he has absolutely no one with whom to connect.
One day, he spontaneously purchases a new computer system, known as an OS, or Operating System. As the world’s first artificial intelligence system, an OS is programmed not only to assist, but to know and connect with humans.
Each OS has a unique personality, and is the equivalent of a virtual personal assistant with limitless knowledge. Enter Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), Theodore’s OS. She’s witty, sensitive, vivacious, curious about the world and looks to Theodore as a friend. For the recently-separated Theodore, Samantha’s presence allows him to begin enjoying life again. As he helps her experience the physical world and humanity, she helps him discover himself; he begins falling for her, and she for him.
“But wait!” you say, “That’s impossible! Samantha’s a computer, that’s totally weird. That would never happen in real life.” Would it? Look around. You’re bound to find somebody completely engrossed in their phone (especially if you’re in the DC and glancing at the person who’s clearly waiting for a friend to show up). How hard is it to believe that in the future, people won’t be able to divorce themselves from the constant companionship of their computers?
This is why “Her” is so engaging. The film subtly raises uncomfortable questions about the complexity of human relationships by presenting the relationship between a man and a humanoid system. The film asks audiences to define love and reality, and to explore their intersection.
For example, how is love between a human and an OS any different from “relationships” that mainly exist through interactions through text messaging or Facebook? Or long distance relationships, for that matter? Is what Theodore and Samantha experience really love, if Samantha was programmed to meet all of Theodore’s emotional needs? Can virtual love ever meet physical needs?
While raising questions about man and technology, the film is surprisingly human-centered. Spike Jonze’s remarkable script and direction allow the world in which the film takes place to be surprisingly accessible. There are tons of face shots, reminding the audience that the human experience is at the heart of the film. Abundant light throughout the film and unique score by Arcade Fire contribute tremendously to the overall atmosphere of the film.
As a whole, “Her” is fascinating and thought-provoking. Spike Jonze subtly tackles some tough questions, while maintaining the audience’s attention. Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Scarlett Johansson give excellent performances. Some parts are uncomfortable, but designedly so.
“Her” is almost certain to win big at the Oscars, so don’t write it off — that is, unless you prefer a mindless movie experience. In that case, “Anchorman 2” would probably be better worth your money.