Tuesday, January 7, 2014

From HAL to GAL: Review of Her

Romances between humans and robots have happened a few times in movies. Remember Making Mr. Right?
However, can a man fall in love with his computer's operating system? Maybe, if the OS changes, too...just like any regular romance.

That's what Spike Jonze has created in Her, a sci-fi romance like no other. He wrote and directed this movie, and has been getting raves all over the internet from fans in Los Angeles and New York. It'll open wide Friday, and when it comes, see it! There's many reasons why the Golden Globes like this movie, and maybe the Oscars will, too.

The movie opens with the sad face of Theodore Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix), who gives a touching yet puzzling monologue, until we see it's really his job: writing touching letters for other people. We also see it's Los Angeles about ten years from now,where technology has become more of a part of our lives. He's also broken up with his wife, and the pain still shows. He even turns to voice-operated smartphone sex.

One day, he learns about the OS1, which includes artificial intelligence that allows it to adapt to its user. Theodore gives it a try, and the experience is just like meeting a girl for the first time. The OS calls itself Samantha, and sounds like Scarlett Johansson. It isn't long before Samantha organizes his life and hard drive, and literally helps him through a hard time.

Then, after a blind date gone wrong, Samantha and Theodore become very intimate. How Jones shows this scene is inspired, and shows us that, in this future, real emotions are expressed between the two....right down to the awkward morning after.

If it was just about a man who's in love with his computer, it would be an odd futuristic romance. However, since the OS1 is available to anyone, Jonze shows that other OSes may have different evolutions with their users...and that the OSes may talk to each other. It doesn't turn into Skynet, but something more thoughtful. Samantha becomes aware of her existence, and compares it to having a body.

The responses Theodore gets about his unconventional romance are interesting, too. While his ex-wife (Rooney Mara) thinks it's a way for him to have love without any challenges, his friend Amy (Amy Adams), also going through a breakup, is more sympathetic. "Falling in live is a crazy thing to do," she says. "It's like a socially acceptable form of insanity." That statement is later proven when Samantha finds a unique way to be more physical with Theodore. This scene is one of the most memorable of the year.

Her, when you get right down to it, is actually any love story, if it didn't involve a computer's OS and a lonely man. If you replaced the OS with the physical form of Johannson, it would be a typical romance about a lonely man who learns a few lessons about himself even if he doesn't get the happy ending.
And that is Jonez's point.

Phoenix is great as Theodore, as is the voice of Johansson. When you hear her, you could almost see her, too. There's also fine performances by Adams, Chris Pratt, and Olivia Wilde as the Blind Date.

Siri is snarky about this film when iPhone users ask her if she is "Her." Of course, that's because of the programmers who made her.
Anyway, this is pure OS 3 1/2 out of OS 4, and should at least lead to an Original Screenplay nomination come Oscar time. Phoenix would be Best Actor material, if not for the logjam of worthy nominees this year.

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