‘The past is something we just tell ourselves’ – words of wisdom in the truly odd ‘Her’.
Films often need to keep their secrets mysterious, this unusual romance is not only cryptic, it creates alternative thinking forcing the viewer to second-guess proceedings. The original screenplay by independent director Spike Jonze has already won various accolades including a prestigious Golden Globe that I successfully predicted. Among other nominations at multiple upcoming awards ceremonies, the film has made the Best Picture category at the Oscars.
So why is it so different? Relationships can be a challenge for assorted reasons but usually never as diverse as falling in love with a computer. Robots as artificial love is nothing new in the science fiction genre. Two distinct favourites of mine are ‘Cherry 2000’ (1987) with Melanie Griffith as a bounty hunter helping a guy renew his faulty mechanical wife, while ‘Robot & Frank’ (2012) was the emotional friendship between an elderly bank robber suffering from early dementia teaching his cyborg primary carer the art of thievery.
Our society already doesn’t bat an eyelid at people scurrying around staring at mobile devices, but ‘Her’ goes further into human condition and social networking filling the void for real people or companionship. Set within vivid imaginings of the ‘slight future’ in smoggy Los Angeles, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is intrigued by new software and buys himself a self operating home system. After a quick set up, he chooses a female voice command and is ready to go. Its name is Samantha with the digital oral commands of the sultry Scarlett Johansson.
Reawakening his introverted view of life, Theodore and Samantha share sweet, sexy, caring, manipulative and soulful conversations, however falling in love is not an option, or is it? Sex reflects major plot twists that I am not going to spoil here, but running concurrently to his adjustment to Samantha, the story also looks at the aftermath of Theodore’s failed marriage. This beautiful highly obscure movie raises fascinating questions on keyword matching data worthy of an erotic novel and will leave you pondering long after the final credits have rolled.
Popular amongst discussion groups, ‘Her’ divides audiences. For a movie that nobody believed would find an audience had limited fanfare upon first release, talk is spreading and awards have deservedly followed. It’s the kind of movie that Academy voters like, an alternative message filled emotional screenplay, ‘Her’ has all that and more.
A boy meets computer love story, electric dreams articulated to a situation so preposterous in theory but still enlighteningly curious, there is even a musical duet between the beloved pair. Counteracting the mainframe romance, Theodore actually has an array of attractive ‘human’ ladies in his life played by Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde and Rooney Mara. Their involvement grounds the story in critical moments. Johansson may be remarkably ineligible for any actress award, she still liberates every scene simply by speaking, a feat in itself.
Phoenix gives another outstanding performance in a distinguished career which included a faux retirement from acting to be a rapper in the documentary ‘I’m Not Here’. His hesitation of what is about to happen next keeps this great film unique, never straying too far from reality believe it or not! Writer / Director Jonze is no stranger to irregular movies based on presumption. Being John Malkovich (1999) centred on a portal into the mind of the oddball actor where anyone could visit and experience the feelings of the man himself. Not quite a traditional Valentines Day movie of choice, ‘Her’ is authentic with an unforgettable outcome. Must see!
Shane A. Bassett