Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara
Irish Theatrical Release: February 14, 2014
Review Author: Adam
Rating: 4.5/5 glasses of red wine…because I was an emotional mess after
Following the formula that seems to have brought us some success of altering my state of consciousness to watch a film and write a review, and then editing it when sober, I watched Her last night.
This movie, is ripe with symbolism, parallels, heavy themes, and some of the most stunning set design and production I have ever been lucky enough to witness.
The premise of the movie is that a writer falls in love with an artificial intelligence based operating system. It challenges traditional notions of love and relationships and how fragile the human condition really is. But upon further examination I discovered that this is the absolute epitome of what a breakup movie should be.
It is actually a break up movie, about the break you take during a break up… everyone does it. Breakups are hard and taking solace in movies is a great way to distract yourself and really this should be added to the ultimate breakup movie list along with Forgetting Sarah Marshall and 500 Days of Summer.
Theo falls into this sort of pseudo relationship while trying to learn how to to re-adjust to a life without his wife after a divorce. Much like the first relationship people fall into after a messy breakup he starts to ogle every detail and latch onto every part of this person or distraction as if they were the answers to the problems in the last relationship. He then falls back into the comfortable habits that feel happier than wallowing in pity or trying to actually date again and pretends it’s growth. There’s a stunning line from Theo where he starts to realise this. Through the plot device of him being scared of being judged after his ex-wife scorns him because Samantha isn’t real he says: ‘what if I’m in this because I’m not strong enough for a real relationship?’. And that hit home the genius of this story- he’s in this safe middle ground, hiding from his feelings. That’s exactly what happens in this movie to Theodore at a level beyond the plot, the theme or story being told by his slow decent into an unconventional relationship after his divorce.
This movie is also about artificial intelligence (obviously) and it does a very interesting thing to show how issues in culture never really go away, they just evolve. People scorn him and make him feel shame for dating an OS the same as mixed race couples in the past were. I thought that was really interesting and subtle.
The way they develop the plot and explain things is amazing, absolutely astonishing exposition and story telling going on in this film at a technical level is so subtle. Obviously this is nearly all dialogue, but the film still focuses on and thinks about the visuals in an amazing way. The fact is that 2 hours of close ups on Joaquin Phoenix’s face should’t be endearing or exciting but it is, because everything about the framing and composition just draw your eyes to him!
The colour scheme is beautiful, he really has created a beautiful world to tell his story in here. Also, nothing is unrealistic here, even the premise isn’t that far fetched and there’s no ridiculous over the top technical leaps that us silly humans have made, it’s all realistic depictions and predictions of the future. There’s a great part during an argument where Theo calls Samantha out for breathing and you realise in that moment just how creepy it is that this inanimate object can be so frightfully real to us as an audience on so many levels.
There’s a lot of very serious themes and undertones at play in this plot and it can be a little bit of a heavy film to watch. There’s a lot going on with regard to society’s addiction and dependance on technology, plays on mixed race relationships, online dating and the hollowness of it. Not to mention the whole thing is a terrifying example of a Turing test. And that’s where the film’s link to another great movie is. This film reminded me a lot of Ex Machina, which is another great portrayal of dependency on technology and a much darker version of this movie. The Turing test is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Alan Turing proposed that a human evaluator would judge natural language conversations between a human and a machine that is designed to generate human-like responses. That’s the big similarity between these two films but really, they play the game very differently. I would highly recommend both!
Like Tom Hardy in Locke (2013), this shouldn’t be entertaining… but it is, god dammit I never got bored of staring at him once during this 2 hour dialogue heavy brilliant film!
Again, to praise this film at a visual level, the fashion and stylings are very bizarre, minimalist and quirky. But as it gets darker…so does the film itself which is just excellent! It could be set anywhere in the world and still make sense. The film doesn’t have to anchor itself on boring things like location or even what part of the future it’s set in to be interesting and endearing to us as an audience.
If you liked this movie, I would highly recommend that you watch Locke (if you like the acting), and Ex Machina (if you liked the plot).
Also- Just for fun, here’s a parody trailer I found while writing this that absolutely cracked me up!