By Matt Mungle
How attached are you to your technical devices? Do you rely on your phone, tablet, etc. to meet most of your social and business need? What about personal and relational? In the new drama HER (written and directed by Spike Jonze) we get an interesting into one man’s journey into the world of online dating; and it isn’t what you think.
Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is a writer, who after his recent divorce, is lonely and withdrawn. When he purchases a new operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) that is designed to organize his life and meet all of his needs he finds that “she” may be the only one that truly gets him. They begin a relationship that in many ways is deeper and more meaningful than two humans could have. Samantha, as she has named herself by searching baby names, is able to evolve and grow due to her access to everything every posted online and the ability to see it all at once. So she rapidly begins to understand how to respond to Theodore, and they find themselves falling in love.
Though this sounds like a farfetched comedy or sci-fi experiment, it is at its core a romantic drama like any other, just with a unique twist. Samantha and Theodore go through all the emotions and discussions that conventional couples do. They argue, laugh, joke around, and view the world together. If Theodore has had a bad day, Samantha is able to pick up on it due to his voice inflections. She in turn has learned the art of emotional speaking and can sound sad, frustrated or excited too.
Granted the society they live in has become accustomed to high forms of artificial intelligence. Theodore’s few friends accept this relationship as normal. This allows the film to seem more socially correct. It also makes you wonder what the future holds. Many people have lengthy online chats with people they have never seen. Sure they may have a picture, but that in itself is just a bit of data. So in theory, this isn’t as odd a movie as it appears. In fact, it is a very touching and emotional film about one man trying to find that special someone.
Phoenix is spectacular in this. The ability to carry one-sided conversations and respond in dramatic fashion takes a special sort of actor. You feel for him and though awkward at first, you eventually start to understand him. Johansson may give the first Oscar worthy performance simply for a voice over. She is able to deliver such emotion simply by reading a script. You never have to see her face to understand exactly how she is feeling. Her character is as alive as any though we never see her. It is remarkable how you forget she is an OS.
HER is rated R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity. It must be very brief, because I never recall seeing it. The language and adult content is certainly geared for older audiences. As far as the sexual content, well, you can sort of clue in on how that works. I give it 4 out of 5 reboots. It is original, well written and perfectly performed. Spike Jonze gives us something new and inventive with this one.
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