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my review of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL!
my review of NON-STOP, which is just me saying this movie is so FUN GO SEE IT
my review of THE LEGO MOVIE.
—What Do I Say?
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live reactions to the oscar nominees with @movie_knight and @EM6211 #oscars #oscarnominations #oscars2014
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my top 10 most anticipated of the year!
Opening with a score inspired by scratchy computer sounds, I knew in an instant that I was going to fall in love with this movie. Beginning with the bright colour palette of Theodore Twombly’s office, as he is reading aloud a love letter that he has written on behalf of a client; Her guides us into its futuristic LA world with almost too much ease. The world that on the surface could fit a science-fiction film, hits a little too close to home; it’s a virtual reality that seems not too far off from the world that we live in now; one where we make the choice to isolate ourselves in favour of technology.
Theodore Twombly is in the middle of a divorce that he does not seem to want. He constantly reminisces about the time he had with his soon to be ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) and leads a solitary life. The answer to his loneliness is soon resolved when a new Operating System is introduced; one that involves an artificial intelligence so smart that it can understand and reciprocate human emotion. It doesn’t help either that this OS has the voice of Scarlett Johansson, whose performance here is as embodied as if she were a physical presence in the film. It is easy to see how Theodore could fall in love with his computer, who offers a companionship almost as real as any human being could offer; however one who could never exist in a bodily form.
Watching Theodore and Samantha’s relationship progress, you almost forget that Samantha is not a real person. It feels reminiscent of a long distance relationship, where the two can only ever communicate through speech. Samantha feels as real as though she were; and though she is supposedly catered to Theodore’s specifications, she too has a mind of her own. Their relationship encounters the same kinds of problems as any real one would, but what is most essential to note about their romance is that it evokes nearly as much joy, passion and love as if Samantha weren’t just a voice inside of a computer. Their love is a real thing.
Watching Her, for me, was a rare cinematic experience. It takes only a very particular film to not just make me feel something about the characters and plot on the screen, but to make me realize something about myself, the people I know, and the world that we encounter on a day to day basis. Her has to be the most relevant film that I have ever seen, because no film has captured our society for what is and for what it may become, as brilliantly or as timely as this film has; at least, not in my lifetime. I’m only 21 years old, and I am living in a world that is rapidly changing to the point where it feels as though this “future Los Angeles” could happen next week. This is a future depicted subtlety, as the elements that make it “futuristic” are all things that we already experience on some level. Everyone is buried in their phones, walking around as if they are the only person that exists, extremely disconnected from each other. It is heightened the way it is depicted in this film but it is not far off from what I see, and from what I myself do, on a regular basis.
Her poses so many questions that I have not even yet grasped them all, but watching the film, my mind was going crazy with all of the things it made me wonder, made me judge, and made me suddenly conscious of. Her depicts a mostly anti-social world. We see some core relationships in the film, such as Theodore’s friendships with Amy (Amy Adams), and his co-worker Paul (Chris Pratt). However, his romance with Samantha almost inherently implies the fact that Theodore is anti-social. In real life, any person that spends more time with their computer than with actual living people would be considered anti-social. Her asks us if a relationship rooted in technology, one that most people living in this generation most likely partake in to some extent, is anti-social. Is Theodore’s experience of any less importance because it is not typical or supposedly “normal”? Something to note in the film is that people accept Theodore’s relationship with Samantha. He isn’t judged or looked down upon. It may be puzzling or curious to those who learn about it, and Theodore himself does seem a little bit uneasy about sharing the truth about Samantha, but for the most part it is socially acceptable in Theodore’s world. He is not the only person engaging in romantic situations with his OS. It seems that for Theodore, his relationship with an OS offers an alternative to being with another human being. After going through a failed marriage and experiencing the flaws of being human, both on his and his ex-wife’s accord, Samantha offers an unconditional love that no human could. There is a certainty about her, as she marvels at what it means to be human instead of criticizes it. For her, being human and trying to live that experience through Theodore is her strongest desire.
There are two obvious ways to look at the film. One could be as a larger metaphor, that Theodore’s relationship with Samantha represents our relationship with technology. That we are not so far off from Theodore, as our obsession and our reliance on technology is nearly as close to being in love with our computers. Maybe we spend too much time online, separating ourselves from a “normal” social atmosphere. Maybe we are becoming anti-social. Her can be taken as a sort of warning—that maybe we should all take a step back and realize just how close we have come to our devices. We too might be replacing them for real people.
The second way to realize this film is as a meditation on love and what love means, because maybe this relationship with technology, so long as it makes you happy, isn’t wrong. There’s a line in the film that really struck me, said by Amy Adam’s character, “We are only here briefly, and in this moment I want to allow myself joy.” This notion of joy presented in the film may not be joy for everyone, but if an individual can experience pure happiness from something less conventional, what makes it any less of a joyous experience? Who is anyone to define joy for another person? Whatever makes you happy makes you happy. If you can share in a loving relationship, no matter what that relationship entails, how is it anyone else’s place to judge. This can also serve as an even larger metaphor for sexuality in general, but for the context of the film, it poses that this heterosexual man can fall in love with the woman’s voice in his computer. She too falls in love with him. They make each other happy. How is this any less of a beautiful thing than any other relationship?
There is a problem with Samantha however, and it is not just that she is an OS. Without spoiling the film, it is still obvious that there is an element of technological determinism to be dealt with as a major thematic point. Technology is advancing at a scarily fast pace, and because of this, so is Samantha. She is developing into something that literally is larger than life. There is no boundary to her, she is not a physical thing and she is not bound to a physical world. Samantha can talk to thousands of people at once. She can write a piece of music in an instant. She can learn about spheres of the world that no human could possibly imagine in their lifetime, let alone in a matter of seconds. There are a million things that Samantha can do that humans will never be able to, and yet she longs to experience the one thing that we are capable of, intimacy and spending life with another person. Samantha may not be bound to time and space, but her own development is out of her control. The rapid pace in which technology, and Samantha, is advancing, simply goes to show that being infinite can be just as scary a notion as being finite. Samantha may not ever “die”, but she will become new entities over and over and without escape. Our reliance on technology, something that is also out of our own control, is becoming a fearful reality in which computers do seem to be replacing people.
Intimacy is something that Samantha tries to experience, but for her it will never be a human experience. In the same vein, the film challenges the notion of intimacy and what it means to spend a life with somebody. Is this an experience that can be replaced by technology? Do we no longer need each other to serve one of the most basic human instincts, love?
This idea is played upon in the opening scene of the film, where we find Theodore at work and reading aloud a letter. Theodore’s job is to write “handwritten” letters for people. It seems that in this society, people either are too busy or are incapable of expressing their feelings on their own. This is like Hallmark on a whole other level. It seems at first like a sweet idea, but later it sinks in just how disturbing it is that a third party has to craft emotions and words on behalf of somebody else. This is a society that is so disconnected from each other that even the people that one truly cares about has to receive a false expression of love.
One of the most beautiful aspects of this film, for me, poses that there is the possibility of falling in love with a personality, not just a body. Theodore does not seem too concerned with Samantha’s lack of a bodily presence, it is more her own discomfort than his. I feel like this instance is something we encounter more frequently than we realize. I myself engage in many friendships with people through social media who I’ve never met. They live in other countries, or our paths never really cross. This is not to say that I fall in love with these people, but I engage in relationships solely based on what that other person is like, maybe if only in their “online presence”. We are living in a new age where we can connect with just about anybody at any time. Of course, these people are all human beings with bodies, feelings, and lives of their own. My personal interactions with them, however, do not allow me to encounter a body, but a personality. It’s a little problematic, of course, that one could develop feelings for someone they only know in an online sphere, but it’s a possibility and it is something that occurs more often than not. Social media allows us to make connections that previously were physically impossible. Friendship, romance, and interactions of any sort, no longer require physicality. You could watch back the film Her, and if we omit the fact that Samantha is an OS, she’d feel just like a real person Theodore may have found online. The two may never meet physically, but they could still fall in love, as they do in the film. There are people who talk through Email, Twitter, Facebook, a plethora of online platforms, who will never meet. Does that make their relationship any less valid? It’s obviously not the same instance in the film, but it treads the same ground.
As I said earlier, Her depicts an anti-social world. However, the people living in it are not anti-social. Theodore is not an anti-social person, just a victim of the society he lives in. Theodore is funny, smart, romantic, creative, and has great fashion sense (the film boasts a retro wardrobe, playing a cool contrary to the otherwise futuristic environment). Theodore has been a husband, he is a friend, and he’s a fun date, as we see his attempts on a blind date with Olivia Wilde. He may not be the most extroverted person, but he knows how to socialize. The technology available in this world just seems to make socializing with human beings a lesser experience than talking to an OS. The OS has infinite possibilities. There is so much that Theodore can do with Samantha that a regular person could not offer. I guess that sentiment goes both ways, as there are things that a human being could offer that Samantha couldn’t. However, there is ease to Theodore’s relationship with Samantha. She is there for him in a way a person can’t be, at least at first. Theodore says that he feels like “he can be anything” with Samantha. Their relationship makes Theodore feel almost as infinite as Samantha is, as with her, he is shown the world in a whole new way. With Theodore, Samantha also can see the world differently—through a human perspective.
After enduring Theodore and Samantha’s relationship as a beautiful, open, and infinite, the reality and flaw of technology sinks in. Samantha is not flawed in the ways that humans are, but the rate at which she advances is almost too much to bear for a human being. Love is flawed, and people who are in love are flawed. Her tells its love story with as much grace as if it were about two human beings. This is a film that convinces the audience that a romance with an OS is as plausible as any other kind of love. I’m only scratching at the surface of the ideas and issues that this film proposes. There is an infinity of questions that come out of a viewing of Her, and that is why I feel it to be such an important film. The ways that this film has made me and countless others think about life, about love, and about our future and the ways that humanity is changing alongside technological advancement is brilliant. Her is brilliant. See this film and think about what it makes you think, and more importantly, what it makes you feel. Maybe you have had experiences that are not far off from Theodore and Samantha. I still haven’t quite decided if this film is meant as a warning message or if it is telling of a reality that is inevitable; we will fall in love with who we fall in love with, and that is a human thing that forever has been out of our control. Love is as infinite and endless as Samantha is, and it will always be a struggle to ever really figure out.