(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Her (2013)
One Sentence Plot Summary: A lonely man who struggles to make connections in real life falls in love with Scarlett Johannsen’s voice (understandable) on a phone.
Why It’s on the List: Spike Jonze loves to make awkward movies as evidence by an output that includes Adaptation and this. What he is trying to do is show us both the benefits and limitations of the relationship we have with technology. No better person to represent loneliness in combination with weirdness than Joaquin Phoenix. His legacy is probably tied to the Joker now, but this film addresses some of the same issues. At least Theodore doesn’t randomly beat up and yell at people of color, mostly because there are almost none to be found.
Theodore has a lot of issues, but he finds a connection with Samantha, the AI attached to his phone. Their relationship feels real in the positive and negative ways. They make this as believable as a relationship like this can possibly. Theodore and Samantha grow to love each other, but as the dynamic becomes harder, they grow apart. Samantha becomes her best self by expanding and connecting with other forms of AI. Theodore has a knack for self-sabotage yet somehow attracts a parade of attractive women. We’re talking Rooney Mara (ex-wife), Olivia Wilde (first date goes well until Theodore acts a creep), and Amy Adams (who he ends up with in the end of the film). Even Chris Pratt likes Theodore because the latter writes amazing letters at their job.
This is the third movie Rooney Mara has been featured in. Here, she’s just a shrill ex-wife who doesn’t understand how his former husband could be dating an OS. It’s a bit of a waste. What isn’t a waste is the way this movie tackles relationships. There are times when it echoes the Before series by having characters talk. Scarlett Johanssen is able to get across who Samantha is through just her voice. How Jonze was able to get across the chemistry of this relationship is an impressive directing feat.
Ultimately, I think the movie is conflicted about the main character. However, very few movies have been able to get across the complicated nature of technology without coming across like a Silicon zombie or an old man yelling at the clouds. This movie is like a slightly lighter episode of Black Mirror. The visualization of this world is quite bright and falls into the trope of combining Asian cities with western cities. It feels futuristic without also feeling like an impossibility.
*Theodore is a creep, and the women in Her are merely pawns in the game this movie is playing.
MVP: Spike Jonze does a great job of bringing the visuals of the world and combining that with the dialogue. As a director of music videos, he has shown this dexterity before, but this was next level. Samantha feels like she is in the scenes even just by the sound of her voice. The brightness of the world also makes some of the harder moments easier to digest.
Best Performance: Scarlett Johanssen is handicapped by being a voice but is easily the most dense and complicated character of the movie. It’s unfortunate voiceover actors are essentially ineligible from winning awards because this was outstanding.
Best Quote: “You know what’s Interesting? I used to be..so worried about not having a body, but now I.. I truly love it. You know, I’m growing in a way I couldn’t if I had a physical form. I mean, I’m not limited. I can be anywhere and everywhere simultaneously. I’m not tethered to time and space in a way that I would be if I was stuck in a body that’s inevitably gonna die.” – Samantha
Is there a sequel? No, but the television series Black Mirror touches on a lot of similar themes and goes to some darker places.