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Review: Her

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for these sorts of sci-fi stories. I really enjoyed WALL-E and Robot and Frank and Moon’s GERTY. I suppose I’m just attracted to stories where you can find real humanity in inhuman constructs? To be able to convey that level of depth and natural essence from a robot just strikes me as an impressive achievement. And Samantha in Her is no exception. Scarlett Johansson’s performance is completely natural and expressive, while communicating a distinctive otherworldly nature that feels both intimidating and enticing. You fully buy into the idea of Theodore falling for her because of her performance, and the great rapport between them makes the movie come alive. Spike Jonze invests the story and dialogue with a lot of heart and truth.

And that’s really what shines about this movie, the truth within it. Jonze manages to verbalize and convey all those feelings and emotions we’ve ever had about a relationship and the aftermath of a breakup. “Sometimes I think I have felt everything I'm ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I'm not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I've already felt.” Who among us hasn’t felt that way and related to what Theodore is going through? I know I have.

Through simple cuts and edits, we get to see the subtle observations that Jonze has about love and life. Take the sleazy and clumsy audio booty call in the beginning of the film, where Theodore chats up random strangers on his earpiece. It's simple lust that's driving him. But later, he has a similar scene with Samantha, only it's imbued with quite a different emotional state. Two ostensibly identical actions, coming from different places and with vastly different results. It's the little things that define our meaning in life.

Most sci-fi futures tend to be dominated by steely cold blues and grays and you sense that humanity is being drained away by the uprise of technology. Her smartly steers away from this aesthetic in favor of warm pink and orange hues that are welcoming and inviting and feel suitably human-centered. The optimists haven’t all died out in the future, it turns out. The entire setting feels lived in and grounded, which lends believability to a movie premise that already requires the audience to take a leap.

The movie does present us with this wonderful and imaginative speculative fiction to think and ponder on, but it never feels like it’s taking over. Her is very much of the same school as WALL-E in its structure. WALL-E had these big heady science fiction ideas and concepts that it played with, yet at the end of the day it was at its core a simple love story, between two robots. Her is modeled in the same way, in that it depicts this near future civilization with expressive AIs and people sinking deeper and deeper into isolation through technology… yet Jonze keeps his eye focused on what the true heart of the story is, which is Theodore and Samantha’s relationship. Some people have voiced their view in how they wanted the entire movie to purely be a meditation on this larger technological revolution and the implications of such, in the grand tradition of speculative fiction, but I definitely prefer the approach that Jonze took here. He melded together the larger canvass of a thoughtful, intriguing sci-fi future with a small, intimate love story, and in my eyes it felt seemingly effortless.

As much as we’d like to pretend otherwise, relationships are rarely as simple as two beings melding seamlessly into one. All too often, we find ourselves trying to get through the little hiccups along the road. No, it’s rarely that huge, bombastic fight that we see in some movies… more often it’s simply two humans who are trying to fit together an imperfect jigsaw. Watching the movie, I felt myself completely entranced by the small scenes, like when Theodore is sitting on a sidewalk, asking why Samantha audibly breathes while she’s talking. These little moments feel so genuine and raw and refreshing because they are the unfortunate aspects of relationships we all have to encounter and get through, and yet never quite see depicted onscreen in other movies.

The movie ends with a mildly optimistic conclusion, but it’s not a typical Hollywood happy ending. Jonze doesn’t go for a slam dunk finish, but leaves it open ended for your imagination. Where does Theodore go from here? It’s up to the audience to decide for themselves. Much like real life, we’re left to simply… move on and continue. To grow and form new connections. Just as Samantha had to grow and evolve and form new connections, so must we in our lives. The journey continues, and as one stage of it ends, another must begin. Theodore’s previous failure to connect with his ex-wife led him to Samantha, and her loss has now propelled him forward into another opportunity for growth. Theodore’s uncertain future is simply a new stage of his life, and I appreciated Jonze’s restraint in ending on an open question mark.

Just as Theodore fell in love with Samantha, so did I with this tender, sincere, expertly-crafted gem. It’s the rare film that leaves you feeling rewarded, respected, and reinvigorated with life.


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