Sunday, January 19, 2014
STARS: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde
DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze
GENRE: Romantic drama
The barrier between human and artificial intelligence is transcended in the sweet but disturbing Her from Spike Jonze. Is it a romantic comedy? Is it a serious drama? Is it a provocative commentary on the growing introversion and alienation in our society? Or is it a thinly disguised, potty-mouthed "phone sex" romp?
It's a bit of all that.
Joaquin Phoenix is Theodore Twombly, and with a name like that, you know he's a nerd. He wears dorky looking glasses, and beltless trousers that look like something you'd order off the back page of a magazine. He works as a letter writer/creator for people who are too lazy or too emotionally stunted to compose their own missives to family and significant others.
The film is set in some unspecified futuristic time. Computer operating systems have the ability to speak, feel human-like emotions, and carry on a conversation in a breathy voice that sounds just like Scarlett Johansson. (Ms. Johansson, as the disembodied "Samantha," never appears physically in the movie. Bummer.)
Theodore is in the process of divorcing his estranged wife, Catherine (the barely recognizable Rooney Mara...guess I'm too used to picturing her as the butchy Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.) There is a touching scene where he and Catherine are sitting together, and all that's left to do is for her to sign the papers and the deed is done. But she is hesitant. If only there were something they could say or do to turn things around. She affixes her signature anyway, and Theodore's fate is sealed. Because he's falling head-over-heels for Samantha--the perfect, intelligent, dedicated companion we all wish we could find. But computer operating systems' personalities have the ability to grow. And just as it oft occurs in human on human relationships, Theodore and Samantha may be growing in different directions.
I'm sitting there thinking that Theodore is a real loser, because every chance he has to be with a real woman, he turns it down to preserve his love affair with a computer. But it's probably rare these days to find someone who hasn't become infatuated, or at least highly intrigued, by the disembodied "voice" of an unseen someone they're communicating with on the internet. Follow the logical progression, and maybe Her isn't as far-fetched as it may seem.in the beginning.
On the other hand, Her is making a not so subtle statement about all the folks who walk around with their heads buried in their iPhones, eschewing the face-to-face contact that we all used to value before technology turned many of us into sleepwalking zombies with our heads up our butts. The people who, in their distracted stupor, will eventually step in front of a bus or tumble down a manhole.
Darwin's theory at work.
Grade: A --