“Her” Review

Posted: January 15, 2014 by MC Wishchitz in Mc Wishchitz Movie Reviews

Her-poster-417x586Written by MC Wishchitz

Being aware of my love for Artifical Intelligences, my girlfriend alerted me to the existence of “Her”. She didn’t go into very much detail and I didn’t think much of it because of how vague her description was. As a result, it fell off my radar until closer to its Canadian release when I heard more about it from a friend who gave me a bit more detail about people attached to the film: Giving me names like Spike Jonze, Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. This friend proceeded to give me a warning that “it was either going to be good or really weird”.

I felt I was partial enough to art house cinema to be prepared for the possibility of some abstract and cerebral experience and although I admittedly did consider Jonze’s past work a tad on the unorthodox side (“Being John Malkovich”, anyone?) I couldn’t see why it couldn’t be both good and weird.

So I decided to check it out: “Her” is set in the not-too-distant-future where everyone is perpetually interacting with technology, specifically with personal computers that they use via oral commands and an ear-piece. The story follows an introverted and lonely writer named Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) and follows his experiences after buying an operating system with a AI named Samantha (Voiced by Johansson) that he can interact with via his personal computer. As Samantha assists him through the various emotional challenges he faces in his day to day life, their feelings for each other change as Samantha herself undergoes changes in response.

Good? Weird? Both?

Let’s find out.

The Good

Scarlett Johansson was awesome in this movie. She only provides a voice for Samantha but she is very tangible as a character even despite her lack of physical presence. She easily gives the best performance of the cast, blending both Samantha’s charming personality and her burdgeoning interest in the world around her with the emotional distance that fits her intangible nature.

The world “Her” is set in is also very interesting to observe as although it definitely takes place in a futuristic world, it does not illustrate mankind’s regular interactions with–Or perhaps dependence on–technology as inherently good or bad, which I found was a refreshing change from the typical sci-fi formula. It also accounts for Artificial Intelligences evolving as they interact with their users without steering that side plot in too obvious a direction.

The cinematography is beautiful, the pacing is seldom encumbered by filler and the narrative gives Theodore and Samantha’s relationship a great deal of intimacy and depth while overcoming–And deconstructing–the challenges that Samantha’s non-physical nature incurs in innovative ways.

The Bad

Chris Pratt was just unnecessary. His character provided very little in the context of the actual story and his admiration of Twombly was almost as awkward and out of place as Twombly himself. Inbetween scenes with Samantha and Theodore, there were moments where I found myself getting fixated on Pratt’s character because I was attempting to find some logic or point in his existance. I was able to find none by the time the movie ended, except perhaps that he affirms Twombly’s talent for writing, which could have been done–And indeed, is done–by any other character. I wouldn’t be so bothered by his involvement–Most of the cast besides the main two and Amy Adams is mostly window dressing in the narrative anyway–if he contributed something even slightly meaningful to the story. But he doesn’t.

Moreover, I was a little less impressed by Phoenix’s performance than some other critics: Although Phoenix does a excellent job of conveying Twombly’s turmoil, he does so in a way that invokes a feeling of disgust at how pathetic he is rather than sympathy and hope that he can change for the better–And this is a problem when the movie revolves mostly around him and his relationships. I felt Twombly could have been made a little more sympathetic given the nature of the story.

He also doesn’t speak very clearly, and while it is an interesting and realistic part of Twombly’s character, it comes at the expense of some of his dialogue.

In Conclusion

…However, one slightly unlikeable character and one pointless one isn’t enough to sink this movie for me. Pound for pound, “Her” was one of the most interesting, innovative and sincere romances I’ve seen on the silver screen in a very long time.

Although I’ve underlined my anger at Pratt’s existence in this movie, the other characters minor as they are all pose interesting thematic questions to the story despite a few of them having all of ten minutes scene of screen-time. (Here’s looking at you, Olivia Wilde and Rooney Mara)

“Her” is not entirely free from some of the trappings of art-house cinema and although it is a very well made film, I wouldn’t say it’s for everyone. However, if you can enter it with an open mind and an open heart, I’d recommend you take a look.

Overall, I’m giving this film four Operating Systems out of five.

Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review MC. The best thing Jonze does with this material is that he actually has us believe a relationship between a man and his operating system could be feasible. And by doing so, he allows it to all play-out as if it were any other relationship you’d see on the big screen. Just a tad bit more unique.

  2. wow. this is one of my favorite movies from this season. i thought it was poignant, hit all the right notes and really held up a mirror to our own lives and how we relate to each other. i thought the acting was good all around. i think joaquin’s theodore was frustrated but didn’t know what to do with it. he rode along merely existing, which is what the character needed.

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