Her, film review: Spike Jonze presents a vision of the future too cute to compute
(15) Dir. Spike Jonze; Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, 126mins
Friday 14 February 2014
The near-future world that Spike Jonze has imagined in Her – a romantic comedy about a man who falls in love with a computer operating system – is not so different from our own.
Okay, so it looks clean and utopian in a way that ours only looks in advertisements. High-wasted trousers and moustaches are in fashion. And people in public spaces use discreet technological devices that allow them to plug into private worlds – but we're used to that.
The artificial intelligence that the OS, Samantha, has is light years ahead of anything that exists in our world right now, though. From the moment Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) boots her up, it's clear that she has consciousness. She is playful, inquisitive, laughs at Theodore's jokes and sounds like Scarlett Johansson.
It doesn't seem strange at all when they start to fall for one another. In fact, this is a far more conventional Hollywood love story than it would have you believe – right down to its status as male wish fulfilment. Although the film elides these facts, it should be remembered that Samantha has been bought and paid for by Theodore, and designed to serve him.
The lovers' unequal status eventually affects more than just their relationship. While Samantha continually asks questions about the physical world and about what it must be like to have a body, Theodore never seems interested in what it feels like to be a computer.
Similarly, while Her is a heartfelt inquiry into the nature of human relationships, the central romance somehow still feels flat and unreal – not because Samantha seems too little like a real person but because she seems too little like a piece of software. It's a film which is too in love with its own cute conceit to notice some of the flaws. It is charming, but its focus is soft.
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