“Her” opened this weekend in the Philadelphia area, and is set sometime in the near future. I knew that, yet I looked forward to it with excitement because it offered a different take. The Spike Jonze film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and the voice of Scarlett Johansson, looked promising in previews, and had the most original storyline I’ve seen in years.
Theodore (Phoenix) is a lonely man who works as a writer at a company known as beautifulhandwrittenletters.com. He is unable to convey any emotion to his wife, who recently left him, but has no problem writing heartfelt notes for people he doesn’t know. When he downloads a new operating system for his computer, he’s told it is a new artificially intelligent system, and he’s given the choice of a male or female voice. He chooses female, and shortly after, they fall in love.
I wanted to like this film a lot more than I did because of its fresh, imaginative script. The pros were many; the film is well acted, the score is perfect, it makes you feel a lot of emotion (at least it did for me), Phoenix smiles more in it than I’ve ever seen the typically brooding actor smile before, and it had a few clever laughs.
However, there were cons. Much of the story takes place at night, when Theodore is in bed. The screen is often black in these scenes, perhaps a ploy to allow the audience to focus solely on the conversations between Theodore and Samantha (the OS), and they are compelling. However, the dark screen and interesting music and conversation, which at times reminded me of “2001: A Space Odyssey”, is enough to lull you to sleep – not because it bores you but because it relaxes you completely. I may have dozed if it wasn’t for the two elderly women in back of me who had no idea what was going on, and kept complaining it was the strangest movie they’d ever seen.
Another thing I noticed is the use of the color orange in the film. It’s used in clothes, buildings and objects, and it’s also mentioned when Theodore has a conversation with his god-daughter. I never figured out why.
“Her” is a depressing futuristic look at our society and where we are headed, and it makes a loud statement. Already we have the younger generation dependent on communicating with technology, which lacks feeling and emotion, and with the infusion of artificial intelligence, it’s easy to see how this could come to light.
It is critically acclaimed, won the Golden Globe last night for best screenplay, and probably will follow with a few Oscar nominations. Many critics saw in it much more than I did, and I still can’t recommend it to the general population. It didn’t live up to the promise of its previews to do that.