Friday, January 17, 2014


***1/2 out of ****

While watching the new science-fiction drama Her, I was reminded of a movement sparked by Spike Jones’ first feature film Being John Malkovich, that seemed to climax about a decade ago with Michel Gondry’s, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Maybe this wasn’t a movement, but there is a level of heavy magical realism present in Her that has been so very absent in movies for too long.

It is a very relatable and personal film, while set in a near future where humanity is even more fused with digital social media. A new operating system has been released that contains the first artificially intelligent assistant for consumer use. A lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix), painfully going through a divorce, loads the new OS, which runs him through a few questions to specify a compatible personality. This results in Samantha (the voice of Scarlett Johansson), who is maybe “more human than human,” to quote a great sci-fi movie. The man and the operating system become close and eventually fall in love.

Yes, of course it’s weird and some people will walk out of the theater, as they did during the show I attended. Many daring movies have this effect. It is very thought provoking and those many thoughts will either be entertained or ignored depending on what ideas intrigue you. I find it impossible to ignore that this film accurately portrays what technology is continuing to do to us and what relationships have always done to us.

What makes this movie so absolutely admirable is Jonze’ handling of the concept, which could go in so many typical directions. Jonze is too mature to turn his first solely-written screenplay into a technophobic horror -or comedy film (Electric Dreams) comes to mind). He isn’t criticizing our increasing dependence on technology. He may be embracing it but shows us how weird we are becoming.

Phoenix’s character works for a website that employs writers to create “beautiful handwritten letters” and find words for the personal lives of others. This movie, like many great futuristic science fiction stories is exploring the idea of technology picking up our humanity when we’ve gotten to lazy to take care of it.

The climax that this movie finds, is mysterious if not entirely satisfying to me. I am tempted to say that this movie gets a little lost at the end but I could be horribly wrong. I'm simply happy that it didn't get lost trying to satisfy everyone.

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