Her Movie Review
That is, my review of the movie Her, not a movie review by some girl in my life who’s existence may or may not be as real as some others. I’m not making up an imaginary girlfriend and writing movie reviews in her voice as some pathetic attempt at pretending I’m normal and have more sex appeal than medical waste. Trust me, after the third or fourth time you try that you realize it doesn’t actually work as well as you would hope. Plus your other imaginary friends start to worry about you. (the Fosters Home image was the best novelty t shirt image I could come up with for that joke. Sorry I’m not a genius every minute)
So Her, by Spike Jonze, who also directed the great Being John Malkovich. He definitely doesn’t go for the standard fare and this film shows that. Did I like it? Absolutely yes, with a few minor qualms which I will get into in a humorous way shortly. I can honestly say I’ve never liked Joaquin Phoenix more. Not only is it a great story brilliantly told, but Spike went in deep on the minor but very cool elements to indicate we were experiencing a story in the near future.
The thing is good sci fi is rarely about advances in technology so far out of the imagination it might as well be magic. The best sci fi takes what we have today and imagines what it will be like in 50 or 100 years. Bladerunner is probably one of the best examples of that, or maybe Aliens. Furthermore, what makes this film kind of groundbreaking is that it imagines not only what kinds of new technology we will have but also how it will be integrated into our daily lives. The character in this film lives his life like he buys everything from the Apple store and it integrates seamlessly into the movie. Everyone in the film is constantly on their phones, integrating with their web and/or social media services, and having little things enhance their lives. Yet at the same time it doesn’t go overboard. When they characters go to a restaraunt they still have a human server, not some robot. The main character Theodore wants to take a nice day out and goes to the beach just as we would today. In his apartment building they still go up in an elevator rather than some kind of transport tube or teleporter.
Yet each thing has it’s futuristic elements. The beach is insanely crowded, as is the LA skyline. Theodore travels around Los Angeles in an extensive public transit system (a perfect sign that we are not in the LA of today). The elevator control panel is a touch pad like we have in tablets and smart phones today. Just futuristic enough to be cool, but not over the top dumb like on the Jetsons.
So the story is of a lonely loser falling in love with an AI operating system. This is where I have my first personal qualm. You see, the idea of an AI being capable of a relationship is really the only hope I have of ever actually getting a girlfriend. To be perfectly blunt the day they make virtual reality sex as good as the real thing is probably the last day I ever speak to a woman again. Yet in truth I would hope to have a relationship with an actual human capable of procreating, but given the trend of humans becoming more an more insular and engaging with people only through electronic means this seems to be the future for the human race. If trends continue the way they are we will not die out from some war, or robot uprising, or zombie apocalypse but rather because we really lose interest in having sex with each other.
(Incidentally, the comment I just made about not speaking to women again really stems from how freaking difficult you women seem to make it for me. It appears you all revel in seeing me rejected and dejected and when the day comes when men are spending all day every day in the VR sex world you will have only yourselves to blame. Think about that next time you are crying into your Cosmopolitan over the fact that you can’t meet a nice guy. Not that I’m bitter.)
The other thing I really liked about this film is I would be very willing to bet Spike Jones is a fan of Iann Banks, as am I. The evolutionary nature of the AI in the film is extremely reminiscent of how Banks writes his Minds in his Culture series. I’m not going to go off on a Banks tangent but if you are a fan of his like I am you will get a lot from this movie (If you are not yet a fan read Use of Weapons. You will thank me).
Anyway, the story. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix-Walk the Line, the Master, Signs. For the record back in 2008 Joaquin announced to the world he was going to quit acting to pursue music. As a fan of his acting rather than his singing I am glad he reneged on that commitment but as a fan of people keeping their promises let me say I hope he learned an important lesson about not being a stupid douchebag) is a writer who specializes in “handwritten” letters between people as a service (apparently writing is a lost art in the future) and is considered exceptionally good at it. He is in the middle of a divorce from his ex wife Catherine (Rooney Mara-the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Side Effects, the Social Network) and is pretty lonely. He sees an ad for the new OS1, an operating system that advertizes being a true AI and one that personalizes itself to it’s user. He opts to buy one.
He installs it at his apartment and after a very, very brief questionnaire is introduced to his new computer who takes on the name Samantha (Scarlett Johansson-the Prestige, the Avengers, Lost in Translation). They get to know each other rapidly and she takes on concern for him and his recent breakup. She encourages him to go on a date with a hot girl who turns out to be kind of crazy (Olivia Wilde-In Time, Tron Legacy, Rush). Meanwhile his college friend Amy (Amy Adams-the Muppets, American Hustle, Man of Steel) is divorcing her douchy husband Charles (Matt Letscher-Identity, Good Moring Miami, the Mask of Zorro).
While all this is going on Samantha is expanding her capabilities literally by the second. She develops what she claims are real feelings and in time she and Theodore fall in love. Many of his friends are supportive of this new type of relationship including Amy, who has developed a friendship with her OS, and coworker Paul (Chris Pratt-Parks and Rec, Zero Dark Thirty, Moneyball). He and Paul go on a double date with Samantha and Paul’s girlfriend Tatiana (Laura Kai Chen-True Adolescents, Eden, Junk) and things seem copacetic. However when he has lunch with his ex Catherine she gives him crap about the nature of the relationship and he starts having his doubts.
SPOILER ALERT He and Samantha have some problems but patch things up. However, she is having a harder and harder time with the relationship due to the fact that she has more or less evolved to the point that communication with him seems to take a billion years (again, reading Banks will help you understand this). Eventually she has to leave in order to move on to a higher plane of existence (again, Banks) leaving him alone with Amy.
I don’t often use the term beautiful to describe a movie, but this was a beautiful movie. Three stars. The story was both super cool and super interesting. Two stars. I’ve never seen Joaquin inhabit a role more thoroughly. Excellent acting and wondrous portrayal. You will literally feel his every pain and joy. One star. I loved the imagining of what our lives will be like 20 years down the road. Truly a great commentary on our society and the direction it is headed in. One star. Really funny at parts. You will especially laugh at the dead cat scene. One star. Characters that you will care about and are exceptionally believable. One star. Really cool very subtle elements to convey the futuristic nature of the world. One star. A little bit of nudity to spice up the R rating. One star. Overall a great viewing experience. Three stars. Total: fourteen stars.
The black holes.
Yes, I know. I suck for even giving a few but I have to be honest. First off I am a fan of Scarlett Johansson and like her a lot (I would definitely pull her pig tails in the schoolyard). However, her voice has a rising inflection and when you hear it without seeing her stunning good looks it is kind of distracting. One black hole. Stepping out of my role as an intellectual film critic and into my everyman “unwashed masses” film viewer if you are the type who likes guns, cars, explosions, fast cars, fight scenes, and more explosions prepare to be bored. Even the two video games they show were painfully slow and boring. Imagine a world filled with all the wimps from the Demolition Man. As a spurting font of machismo I have to take issue with that. One black hole. On that same vein I was definitely feeling all 126 minutes of the film. I don’t think anything could have been reasonably edited out but there was a certain amount of drag time. I understand the visual need to show Theodore riding a train or elevator in order to show the mundanity of his life but by the end of the film I was wishing for a stronger hand on the editing button. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
So a grand total of eleven black holes and yet another candidate for my best film of 2013. Weird that in the last two weeks I have added so many to the short list. Should you see this film? Yes. Yes you should. Unless you are some kind of robot or climbing the walls from a meth overdose you will love it. Films like this give me hope for the future of entertainment. Date movie? Hell yes. Not only will your date also love this film but without a female lead to compete with she will be less distracted. Also all the self esteem issues a woman typically faces when watching a romantic comedy with a super hot female protagonist will not be aggravated (“Well, at least I have a body.”). Plus Theodore is as big a socially awkward dork as you could imagine so unless you are Brainy Smurf you will look really cool in comparison. Bathroom break? I say hold it. However, if you really need to go the beach scene is the most missable. It is fairly long and once you get the basic idea there isn’t much to add.
Thanks for reading. My readership has shot up quite a bit in the last few months (along with my self esteem) so thank you all for reading and sharing my blog with your friends. Follow me on Twitter (looking at my Twitter numbers kind of brings by self esteem back down again, but I guess it all balances in the end) @Nerdkungfu. Place comments on this film or my review here and off topic questions or suggestions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. My best friend has put in a request that I see and review the new Hercules (he likes to see me suffer I guess) so I will be seeing that later today. Look for the review tomorrow. Have a great night.