Critics have been raving about this film. Because I revel in my contrariness I was left rather meh about Spike Jonze’s (Where the Wild Things Are, Adaptation) latest film. Disappointing reaction to a Spike Jonze film for me as he is one of the most unique filmmakers out there. Never one to make a Hollywood film or even feature length films (he has directed plenty of shorts and fantastic videos like Beastie Boys “Sabotage” and Bjork’s “It’s Oh So Quiet”) Jonze makes left of center films that have always stimulated my brain. And while he was once again successful at doing this I was left feeling strangely unattached to the film and annoyed by most of the characters in Her.
We are in the not too distant future and OS (artificially intelligent operating system) have been developed that are meant to be partners for the people that buy them. Each OS has been made based on the owner’s personality. Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix – Gladiator, Walk the Line), a man who for a living writes emotion-filled letters for people and is in the process of getting divorced from Catherine (Rooney Mara – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network), is lonely so he buys an OS. He names her Samantha (Scarlett Johansson – Point Break, Lost in Translation). Despite his initial doubts, Theodore begins to develop emotions for Samantha.
His friend Amy (Amy Adams – American Hustle, Doubt), who is married to the cold Charles (Matt Letscher – The Mask of Zorro, Devil’s Knot), supports Theodore through his divorce and does not judge him when he tells her he is in a relationship with his OS.
Despite the fact that his feelings for Samantha have developed into love it does not seem like the doubt of the validity of the relationship ever leaves Theodore. It seems like virtual relationships are just as tricky as the real thing.
What most disturbed me about the film was its presentation of women. Basically it was rather awful. It shows the female of the sex in rather poor light. We’re definitely not to be trusted I tell you. The ex-wife is a bitch, as soon as the OS gains female emotions Samantha becomes jealous and then moves on when the next guy comes along that catches her fancy, Olivia Wilde (from television’s House) has a small part playing a woman Theodore goes out on a date with who starts off with promise then becomes crazy, and Amy is rather dumb about her own romantic situation. Each one is just a reflection of the interaction they have with men and not really a fleshed out character existing on their own.
Before the film came out there was hype about Scarlett Johansson being nominated for her voice work in Her. After seeing the film I have to think this was just hype put out by men who were wowed by her sexy voice. So wowed that they didn’t notice how off her tone was and how weak she was at conveying the “emotions” that the OS was developing. Bottom line is that I believed her as a computer voice, but not as a human.
Even the main character of Theodore, he whose perspective we see the story unfolding from, is rather annoying. That is not due to Joaquin Phoenix’s work, which is strong, rather because the character written for him is rather lacking and antiseptic. We learn very little about how he feels. Concretely, at least. Through his eyes Phoenix tries to convey what the character is feeling, but there was nothing for me to grab and hold on to.
The relationship between Theodore and Samantha becomes annoying and run-of-the-mill in short order with the doubt, jealousy and dullness setting in. Many conversations between them either contain long awkward silences or the question “What’s wrong?”. Sigh…even created and fantasy relationships are hard to watch. Depressing! By the time that Samantha leaves Theodore I found it hard to even care.
What I did enjoy very much was the way the film looked. The cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema (The Fighter, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – 2011) is wonderful and an eyeful. Though we don’t really know what American city we are in Van Hoytema has partially created his own vision of a futuristic city and meshed it with present-day Shanghai. It is different and modern looking without being unrecognizable.
I would have been alright with the weaknesses of the film in the end if its overall point would have been poo pooing how reliant we’ve become on technology and electronic devices equaling increasing social isolation. I was hoping for something completely subversive in its oddness. Even that did not happen so I was left as disconnected as Theodore’s OS.