February 3, 2014 2 Comments


Spike Jonze has conjured up a heartfelt and intriguing cyber response to the question:  what makes a relationship worth the risk?

Her is a compelling film that might have been a one-trick pony in the hands of another director:  lonely guy Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix)  meets internet OS( given voice by Scarlett Johanson) designed to evolve with  his specific needs and qualifications as a template.  Perfect!  But wait.  Samantha (the name the OS gives herself) lacks physicality.  Problem? Well, not initially.  Old ex wives and girlfriends float in and out of Theodore’s screen, posing interesting contrasts and raising the questions that existed long before the internet ramped up the distance humans impose to protect themselves from each other.

The characters never seem cartoonish.  Jonze creates a vivid world in the not-so-distant-future Los Angeles filled with modern skyscrapers stretched in a panorama that loom large (it is in fact represented by Chang Hai)  People walk  in and out the frame attached to their devices. Theodore’s  depression barely registers in a world that appears to thrive on detachment.  There are dark, funny moments in this film, but it is no comedy.  For example, Theodore works as a writer of “personal letters” which are purchased by people struggling to connect humanly to those they love.  The premise is quirky, but the feelings expressed in the pseudo-letters created by Theodore ring true, even as we know they are not.

The connection between Theodore and Samantha unfolds (and unravels) with a sincere attempt by Jonze and his cast to inhabit the stages of any relationship.

To say more risks dropping too many spoilers.

This is a must see movie.  One of the very best of 2013.

Jolyn Wagner


Must See Movie of the Week
2 Comments to “Her”
  1. Bruce Russell says:

    Samantha lacks physicality. If there are immaterial souls, they lack physicality, too. Could such souls love each other or could a human being love an immaterial soul? Probably if there were a way for them to interact. But why is the love between Theodore and Samantha more problematic since she, like an immaterial soul, lacks a body? Perhaps the answer will be come to mind if we can answer the following question: why is it problematic for people to send their beloved a love letter written by another person? There is a sense in which Theodore both gives and receives: gives love letters to others and essentially receives love letters from Samantha. Why do I say he receives love letters from Samantha? And if this is true, why does it make his love for her problematic? I don’t think an answer to these questions would be a spoiler, but I wonder what people who read this think.

  2. Bruce Russell says:

    Here’s what I think. Suppose a wealthy CEO has his secretary buy his lover a nice gift. Something’s missing. If he really loved her, he would take time out of his busy life to buy her a thoughtful gift himself. Buying a love letter is similar: even if you do not write as well as a professional writer of love letters a bought letter lacks a personal touch. Samantha lacks a personal touch because she is an OS. What she says to Theodore is not spontaneous. It’s programed. She has something like 617 clients like Theodore. Furthermore, whom does Theodore love? Samantha is neither a person nor an object (some people do love their cars, in a way). So Theodore has to be self-deceived if he thinks Samantha is someone he loves. She is not a someone! He has the feelings one typically does when one loves another…but there is no other. Maybe in the future people will be happy to substitute such a feeling for a real relation, to be happy with love letters written by a stranger, and to spend their time tweeting. But that would be too bad.

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