The Future is Now?
DIRECTED BY SPIKE JONZE/2013
Hailed as one of the singular best, most important, and most thought provoking films of 2013, Her, the unusual L.A. based sci-fi romance directed and (for the first time) written by one-time music video wunderkind Spike Jonze has already racked up plenty of commentary. With ZekeFilm’s Best Films of 2013 roundup now officially behind us, we can count ourselves among the impressed, with three of our four critics who’d seen the film ranking it very highly on their personal lists. These critics are Sharon Autenrieth (placing it at #3 for the year), Paul Hibbard, and myself (both lauding it as #1). Finally, this much-talked about film is opening wide! Below are our Best of 2013 thoughts on Her shuffled and re-edited. Enjoy!
SHARON: This new movie from writer/director Spike Jonze packs a wallop. The story of an emotionally guarded man who develops a relationship with his operating system, Her has the sort of premise that sounds silly or perverse. But the insights it offers into how we connect with each other – and with our technology – are profound.
PAUL: Our computers know us better than anyone else. That’s not even too much of a profound statement, just a simple fact. A glance through our hard drive or search history will tell someone more about you than anything you can say. Why do our loved ones give such misguided birthday presents but the cookies from our computers recommend exactly what you are looking for? Such a violation of our privacy, yet so painfully accurate.
JIM: A simple question for iPhone users: What if SIRI actually worked? Our computers know everything about us. It’s terrifying to realize that our relationships with our computers may be our most intimate relationships, lopsidedly outweighing those we maintain with our friends and loved ones. And yet, Her presents a certain viability within the notion. And then, it proceeds to leave us to ponder and question it all the while, even as we’re absolutely absorbed within Joaquin Phoenix’s beautifully delicate performance as the lonely, wounded, socially invisible misfit Theodore living in Jonze’s “five minutes in the future” vision of Los Angeles.
SHARON: Joaquin Phoenix in the lead, Amy Adams as his best friend, and Scarlett Johansson as the voice of a very self aware OS all give terrific performances. Additionally, Jonze has produced a movie that is visually stunning. This near-future world is neither utopia nor dystopia, but somehow is as beautiful and transcendent as the movie’s ideas about what it means to be human.
PAUL: Her is about a lonely, recently divorced man in love with his operating system, taking on a SIRI-like voice with a very human soul. Her is another film about the proliferation of technology in our lives and our connection to it. Yet this time, it takes a more balanced view. It acknowledges that technology is indeed a deconstruction of human interaction in society, but also a means for lonely people to feel connected to others. Technology is an extension of humanity, as David Cronenberg once said. Her acknowledges that, as it also acknowledges the horror of it all.
JIM: But there’s also a beauty and honesty to the unusual love relationship in the film, the real marvel being how fully the audience plays into it. As the parameters of what’s socially acceptable in intimate human relationships is extended in ways many could not fathom and have difficulty comprehending, Her reminds us that no matter what, it’s our own familiar emotions at the core of these relationships. If SIRI worked, she may prove irresistible to many. And then, how long before she reciprocates? Would such a thing be “real”? Would it be okay? Her legitimately takes us to a world – one frighteningly recognizable – where all of this is plausible on a widespread scale, and completely true. And that’s what great science fiction can do. The relationship between Theodore and his newfangled operating system Samantha is the most compelling, most emotionally raw depiction of a love relationship in 2013.
Although Spike Jonze’s filmography (1999′s Being John Malkovich, 2002′s Adaptation, and 2009′s Where the Wild Things Are) is rife with male social introverts who tend to live in their own heads, the director also harbors an ever-playful and strangely whimsical view of the world. In that way, it’s evident that even as the emotional springboard of Her is decidedly one of contemporary adult male loneliness, the wondrous and weird view of this world is in many ways ever-youthful, ever-fantastic.