The past seven days

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Her - Review

A lonely man in the wake of a divorce unexpectedly develops a relationship with his new operating system. Samantha is designed to meet his every need, but Theodore quickly discovers the possibilities and dangers of dating a computer in Her.

I have been patiently waiting to see Her for months. I wanted to see it when it was first released but, as always, my city was not playing it so I have been waiting for it to come on DVD. I got especially excited when Spike Jonze won Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars. After seeing the movie I have to say it was not only well deserved, but it should have won more.
Her is probably one of the most thought provoking and heartbreaking films I have seen in a very long time. The style was beautiful, the dialogue was funny and raw, and the acting by Joaquin Phoenix was spot on. I am not ashamed to say I cried three or four times during this movie. Aside from the emotion it confronts it really does leave you with the question of, is this advancing technology just going to hurt people in the end?

Starting with the plot, it was fairly simple. We are thrown into the near future where technology is advanced but not anything on the level of The Jetsons. People still walk places, there were no flying cars, people still had jobs, and people still communicated. However, we had fully interactive computers and games, the technology had replaced certain human things, and the introduction of the OS programs like Samantha. Theodore purchases Samantha under the impression that she will help him organize his life and help him through his day.
When I say the technology had replaced certain human things I am referring entirely to Theodore's job. His sole purpose in the company he worked for was to write letters for people. How is this technology replacing human work? He never actually wrote anything. He spoke to his computer which then translated his voice through a program that handwrote the letter for him. All he had to do was say "print" and boom, you have a handwritten letter... written by someone else. The saddest part is I think that is a very plausible future for us as a society, but let's keep moving.
I was somewhat impressed with the level of believability Jonze gave our future society. Unless I missed it, you don't find out what year this takes place in but I sat there after the movie was over and thought to myself, "man this could realistically be us in 10 years."

Back to what Samantha is actually programmed to do, the OS was advertised to help with organization. He buys the OS to help organize his emails and his life overall. Samantha quickly adapts to his personality, his work, and his routine in a way that is both impressive and scary. She organizes his emails and decides which are important based on his tone of voice, she adapts to his finances, sets up meetings with his friends, and persuades him to do certain activities. It truly felt at times that you were going to have some major reveal of a call center somewhere with people sitting at a computer working these so-called OS programs. The fact that it never happened is up for us to decide whether that is cool or creepy. I vote somewhere in the middle.
Before too long the OS programs as a whole begin to advance at a ridiculous rate and we see it purely through Samantha. She begins to wonder what Theodore is feeling, why he responds the way he does, and the way Scarlett Johansson voices the character you can often hear the emotion in her voice. It is as if he is talking to a real person who is trying to connect with him on a truly emotional level.
Before too long we find Theodore falling for the voice in his computer. The strange part is the computer is also falling for him. He seems willing to just let it happen and figures he has someone he can talk to and it's great, but Samantha struggles more with the fact that they can't truly be together physically and I thought that was the most interesting perspective of this movie. The computer was more concerned than the human which is not something I expected. Going in I figured Theodore would be the one who initially had these concerns. Turns out he was so lonely he didn't really care at first. Also the fact that Theodore is passing up pure, human opportunity with his neighbor (played by Amy Adams) to date his computer.

Without going into too much detail about how this story ended, I just want to say that it was a great foreshadow and oversight into our current culture. I mean, we are already in the world of online dating and people falling for someone they've only talked to in a chat room. That has already been our reality for 5 years. How much further can we take this before being human is truly lost? How much longer do we have before people stop talking to each other and just talk to their computers?

The better question is, what good does falling in love with an OS bring? Does it perpetuate loneliness or truly give us something to grow off of and get back on our feet to talk to someone?

In our current world it's hard enough to approach someone and see what they're all about. People are too busy on Facebook and Twitter looking for the next hashtag craze. Give us 10 more years of this, if not 5 more, and we will soon be Theodore and Samantha. It is both scary and intriguing. I applaud Spike Jonze for bringing us this story because it is insightful, intelligent, and heartbreaking. Oddly enough, it has more human element and emotion than other films that are not centered around technology and artificial intelligence.

Best movie of 2013 by far and the best I have seen in a long time.

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