I wanted to love Her.
The Spike Jonze written and directed comedy (not really) takes a current societal problem (we’re in love with our phones) and tosses it into a fated Los Angeles where people are so detached from any human emotion and interaction that they have other people write their letters for them.
And therein lies the first problem I have with Her. People barely write letters as it is. The Post Office could go under any day now. But we’re supposed to believe that in this future world, with all of its life-managing cyber people, and immersive video games, and complete L.A. subway system, that letters have made a comeback all because Jonze wants to stress how disengaged humans are from each other?
That’s not to say Her doesn’t nail most of its cynical views on relationships and what’s become of the human psyche. Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore is a self-wallowing pity fest which is becoming the norm in our culture of “It’s all about me, I’m amazing, I’m perfect, I am always right.” And Scarlett Johansson, as the voice of Samantha, does a tremendous job taking us from the jubilation one feels at the beginning of any new relationship to the confusion and turbulence that occurs once feelings (and love) start to develop.
But the most excellent illustration is a small little scene in which Theodore asks his OS to read through his daily emails and as he breezes through all of the “important” ones without thought, he stops at a tabloid-esque email about provocative pregnancy photos. Because we’re a society more obsessed with Justin Bieber’s DUI than Russia’s lack of civil rights.
I also should mention, Her is a beautifully shot film, even if Jonze suggests that soon we’ll all be wearing muted pastel Member’s Only jackets and khakis. Not-so-distant future Los Angeles looks fantastic, maintaining it’s urban edge while embracing a more harsh skyline.
But here is my main issue with Her, and it’s one that took me out of the film completely. The entire setup is that this new OS begins with you. Meaning, when you start it up, the voice learns, grows, and acclimates to you and your personality. Your words, actions, and reactions cause the OS to develop into a one-of-a-kind entity that is specific to your needs and requirements – which flows nicely into the relationship that forms between Theodore and Samantha. But this is all thrown out the window when, at the climax of the film, Samantha admits to speaking with 8000+ others and falling in love with around 600 of them. This shouldn’t be possible if each OS is individualized to the person using it as we are led to believe. It’s a striking plot hole used to create dissonance in their relationship and one that shouldn’t be forgiven.
This doesn’t make the filmunwatchable. It rings with a truth and self-consciousness that’s admirable. I just won’t be falling in love with Her anytime soon.
- Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson
- Directed by: Spike Jonze
- Running Time: 126 minutes
- Genre: Drama, Romance
(Photo Credit: Annapurna Pictures)