Thursday, January 23, 2014

(Movie Review) Her: Why that weird movie about Joaquin Phoenix dating his phone is actually pretty great!

What is love?
    When the trailer for Spike Jonze latest film Her debuted a few months ago you could almost hear the collective laughs and see the collective rolling of eyes at theaters everywhere.  No matter how well done the film, how great the director, or how great the cast, it just did not seem that America would be willing to a give a film a chance about a guy who falls in love with not his phone, but rather a multi-faceted operation system voiced by Scarlett Johansson.  Fast forward a few months and Her has become one of the most widely talked about films of last year and has even managed to get a best picture Oscar nomination.  So how good is Her? Is it the cheese ball film mainstream audiences were expecting or is it the beautiful commentary on love and society critics are making it out to be? Find out after the break….  
I'm in love with my OS, not my phone stupid!

    If you had to call Her, one thing it would have to be a balancing act.  In the film, Spike Jonze tries to balance a heavy hearted societal commentary on love with elements of futuristic science fiction.  I would argue that Her is at its most meaningful peak when it is a love story, even if it is a very complicated one.  In addition to the overwhelming element of a man being in love with an artificial intelligence, the love story in Her asks an even bigger question: What is love? (*Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me no more- Editor*) 

What is love in our society? 

    The question of "what is love" is asked in a non-traditional way as it is represented by the relationship between Theodore (Phoenix) and his operating system Samantha (Johansson). Her, howevermakes the audience ponder that question not only in their own society but perhaps in their own life.  The question that Jonze poses can relate to something as prominent as same sex love or could address simpler loves such as those for the passions we all have as human beings, whether that be collecting or sports.  Beyond that, Spike Jonze not only provides his portrait of love, but how others view the personal portrait of love of others.  This is evidenced in the film by how the different people in Theodore’s (Phoenix) life view his relationship with Samantha with reactions varying from utter disgust by his ex-wife (Rooney Mara), and sheer acceptance in the form of a co-worker (Chris Pratt).

In Her, love trumps science fiction!

    Spike Jonze's Her falls off balance in the final third of the film when it loses some of the love in favor of science fiction.  A film that did an excellent job at futuristic world building in making this existence of these AI’s and the inevitable relationships that go along with them believable falls off the rails a bit near the end.  This happens as we witness the exponential growth of technology that quickly evolves from a world where AI is possible to a world were AI becomes completely self-aware and gathers with other operating systems to eventually commit mass computer suicide and make a quick exodus to computer heaven.  This leap is far-fetched even in a film were a man can fall in love with an OS, and belts do not exist.   
Ultimately, there is no substitute for human interaction!

     Many will argue that Her is simply a metaphor that technology is not a substitute for real human interaction as evidenced by the relationship between Phoenix and Amy Adams.  While that is a prevalent theme of the film, I like to think that in Her, Spike Jonze is truly pondering "what is love?" How does love evolve? And how does non-traditional love impact society? Despite being hindered by a heavy dose of science fiction in its final third, films that make society ponder the concept of love so powerfully don’t come around often, ultimately making Her more of a cinematic milestone than a masterpiece.
CONFIRMED: GREAT AND A 1/2

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