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Theodore is a successful writer, who seems to be doing rather well in his career. His work colleagues and few friends admire him. But there is one small issue which tugs at Theodore’s heart – he is lonely. Until the day he meets Samantha. And his love life begins to blossom into a wonderful relationship.
They do everything together. They visit museums. They have picnics in the park. They go shopping together. Samantha even helps Theodore with his writing. But there’s just one problem..
Samantha is a computer.
Joaquin Phoenix – Theodore
Scarlett Johansson – Samantha (voice)
Amy Adams – Amy
Matt Letscher – Charles
Chris Pratt – Paul
Rooney Mara – Catherine
Spike Jonze – Alien Child (voice)
Portia Doubleday – Isabella (surrogate date)
That was honestly one of the strangest movies I have ever sat through. By the time it ended, I actually had a headache – mainly due to my forehead being scrunched into a frown for a good 70% of it. And by the time I exited the cinema itself, I felt a bit fucked up.
Her. A movie about a man who develops an emotional and sexual relationship – with his computer. If I didn’t have to review both the negative and positive sides of movies, I’d be inclined to leave this review at “what a stupid bloody idea”. But of course, it is my job to bring you the high’s and low’s.
So let’s do this..
Joaqun Phoenix. The “oh, its you again” of Hollywood returns to play emotional Theodore. And he does it well. At first I thought, “oh Christ, you are kidding aren’t you?” when I saw him and discovered what the story was. Not only does he sport a smart moustache (which conveniently hides his hair-lip) but he genuinely looks the part – slightly geeky and quite creepy, his overall appearance / personality reminded me of some sinister pervert. But as he led us through the story, I began to take to him – there was more under that Ned Flanders-style moustache than meets the eye.
The entire movie is Theodore’s journey of “meeting” and falling in love with uploaded Samantha, and how the relationship develops. And to be honest, when director Spike Jonze picked Joaquin Phoenix to play the role, he struck gold. Not only does Joaquin look the part, but he brought an incredible sadness to the screen. I could feel his longing, aching, upset – each and every emotion displayed during the movie resonated through the screen, acted faultlessly by Mr. Phoenix.
He reminded me of one of those people you meet in life; when you look at them you can’t help but feel a bit sorry for them. Whether they naturally have a sad appearance or the things they do seem to work out for them, they carry an air of pity. Joaquin seemed to nail this personality – I just can’t fault his performance at all.
Samantha is basically a computer programme which Theodore uploads. Known officially as an OS, it is an operating system with artificial intelligence which is designed to evolve over time. Theodore answers a few simple questions about his life, then chooses whether he wants a male or female voice.. and bingo – Samantha is ‘born’.
Voiced by Scarlett Johansson, she can only be heard throughout the movie as she is data in a computer system with no actual physical form. To be honest, there isn’t a hell of a lot for me to comment on here – what can I say about Scarlett Johansson’s voice, other than it is as husky as ever?..
For what the actress has to do, she does it well. Although never seen, it is easy to get a feel of her and who she evolves in to. If anything Samantha offers a nice, unusual dynamic as the invisible partner. I mean, if this movie was about a geeky man and his girlfriend we see in the flesh, it would probably be a bit boring. The fact she is never seen puts a fresh and imaginative spin on the couple’s relationship; ‘imaginative’ being the operative word – having Scarlett’s voice wash over the audience means the viewer can close their eyes and create a woman of their own.
Her is creative in the sense that it brings to screen a type of ‘Build-Your-Own-Woman’ scenario.
Her is set in 2025.
Where the general public all wear earpieces for daily needs. Where the city skyline is filled with tall, twinkling alien-like buildings. The shiny pavements are clean and spotless. Computers have become people. Everything is more swish and slick than it was in the past.
..yet people still travel by Tube.
Ok, call me a picky bastard – but for fuck sake; why do futuristic movies always seem to evolve the world – but leave the small things behind? For example, in Theodore’s life, computers have developed personalities – yet people still wear glasses. You’d have thought a world in which men are socialising witht their laptops, they would have invented a futuristic alternative to wearing glasses; magnetic lenses? Eyeball implants with the functionality of specs?..
Yes. I am that picky.
But its always an element I notice in movies which are set in a glossy, tech-advanced future – why people can do amazing things, yet things like glasses, or travelling on the underground remain as routine as they did hundreds of years before.
Amy Adams makes an appearance, as Theodore’s best friend Amy.
Quite a difference to American Hustle‘s Edith – in fact, she is the complete opposite. Amy has gone from pearls to curls, with her tired-looking, hippy character. But she’s rather adorable. She is something of a lifeline for Theodore; always being there for him when he needs a friend, etc. And she even strikes up a relationship of her own with an OS…
The rest of the cast glue this movie together nicely, remaining strong yet subtle; even Chris Pratt manages to tone it down a bit from his usual wide-eyed comical antics. This makes way for Joaquin to take the lead and propel the movie forward at the right pace.
Her isn’t all emotinal, soppy shit – it is actually quite funny in parts. And I think this is mainly due to the surreal atmosphere it creates.
For example, Theodore and Samamtha’s lovemaking scene had the audience in stitches – her heavy breathing leads up to an explosion of “OH GOD! I CAN FEEL YOU IN ME!”… Nose and eyebrows scrunched in a total “what the – you’ve got to be shittin’ me?!” reaction, I found myself laughing out loud along with the rest of the cinema audience.
The script isn’t entirely serious – it throws some wonderfuly funny lines and situations at the audience which were well recieved by everyone in the auditorium; the surreal situation of man-loves-computer gives the comedy the spark it needs – a fine example of this is the morning after the couple have made love. Theodore walks slowly toward his computer. Hesitantly, he switches it on to the sound of a husky, “good morning!” – and like a man in a classic one-night stand situation, he announces, “hey. Listen, about last night.. I’m just not sure if I’m ready to commit to anything serious..”
The audience erupted in joyous laughter.
So, if you’re thinking Her is a serious, twisted, soppy love story – think again. The comedy flows as strong as the emotion.
At one point, there is a confrontation (of the vocal kind) between Samantha and Theodore. He is concerned that she may be having an affair, so asks her if there are any ‘other men’ involved. To which she replies..
A crucial, decision-making stage of their relationship begins as Theodore now has a choice to make: continue with Samantha or leave her.
I couldn’t help wondering during this ‘make or break’ moment why the fuck he hadn’t asked Samantha this on day 1. She’s a human computer programme for Christ sake! She’s going to be as shared by the public as bloody Microsoft Word!
Yes, that’s right. Samantha becomes human. In the form of wide-eyed, slightly mad Isabella.
Samantha suggests Isabella becomes their sex surrogate, whereby Samantha speaks, Isabella remains silent, but simulates a human form of her. Complete with ear piece and a ‘beauty-spot’ camera, Isabella moves and reacts to Samantha’s voice in silence, giving the entire experience a completely new perspective. However, things don’t go too well when Theodore becomes slightly freaked out at the experience..
This part reminded me a little of Doctor Who episode ‘The Doctor’s Wife‘ – where the TARDIS becomes human and takes form of a woman’s body. I find it fascinating; machine becoming human, human becoming machine – probably why The Stepford Wives is one of my favourite movies. Because when veins meet cables, anything is possible.
Having Samantha become human was an epic turning point in the movie, and actually put a nice twist on the tale. This definitely kept it all moving with a nice fluidity. Whether you’re bored by the story or intrigued, this scene is guaranteed to make you lift your head and raise your eyebrows…
One thing I found slightly confusing was the fact Samantha did not have the ability to ‘feel’ – yet whenever Theodore’s emotions wavered, she could sense this. The whole concept of machine-human borders on the “uh-oh” of moviemaking – the director has to tread carefully, produce a movie which doesn’t contradict itself. And this must be hard.
Samantha cannot yet ‘feel’ as a human can, but she can somehow feel Theodore is upset, happy, etc.
To be honest, I kept wondering why she didn’t just absorb the entire Internet if she wanted so badly to feel, to know, to learn about experience.
The graphics in this movie were superb.
And one element stands out for me in partcular: Theodore’s computer. Whenever he sat down to play a game on his computer, the effects which bounced up onto the screen were blinding. This is no Xbox 360, this is an entirely different race of consoles – produced in a futuristic timezone.
As Theodore lifts his hand, he is suddenly surrounded by colourful graphics – like being enveloped by a giant telvevision. As he plays his game, every action performed by the character is done so from the actions of his fingertips. This futuristic concept was superb, and strangely beautiful – adding to the dynamics of the movie.
Oh, and watch out for the Class Mom scene; where Amy sits developing a computer game, where the player has to puppeteer a mother around her home, taking care of her children. The beautiful graphics combined with Amy’s comedy commentary had the audience roaring with laughter.
Street signs, elevators, even the spaceship-style skyscrapers gave Her a bold but beautiful clarity. These special effects and graphics are to be applauded.
Overall, Her is a thought-provoking, emotional comedy. It is deliciously gooey and romantic, whilst being mysterious at the same time. Throwing a “what if?” at the audience the entire time, it manages to blend its emotion with comedy nicely, thus offering a movie on a half and half scale: a love story – but an idea for a concept also. It is sad. Funny. Thoughtful. Slightly controversial.
And I can categorically admit that if they eventually do end up creating a computer programme that you can interact with, I wouldn’t mind giving it a go.
..until then, I’ll have to make do with shoving my penis in someone’s hard-drive or something.
…yes, I’m joking you filthy bitches.