Spike Jonze’s Her

Spike Jonze’s Her:
Light on the Sci-Fi, Heavy on Feelings

By: Jen Richards

(Warning: Potential though Minor Spoilers)

Joaquin Phoenix stars in Her, the tale of a man who falls in love with his operating system (OS). A little far fetched perhaps, but knowing Spike Jonze was at the helm (as director and writer), gave me all the assurance I needed to suspend my disbelief. After all, Jonze sold the idea that a portal leading to the mind of John Malkovich could exist in the superb film Being John Malkovich, so why not a romance between a human and an OS.  Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Chris Pratt, and Scarlett Johansson (as the voice of the OS), all compliment the phenomenal job done by Phoenix. His performance is so strong and realistic that it made it easy to believe that he and “Samantha”, his OS, were falling in love.

Several days have passed since I watched the film, and my mind is still churning, trying to process all of the ideas and feelings I was left with when the credits rolled.

Love is not logical, nor is this premise. We do not get to choose the people we fall in love with. Maybe those of us who have loved people completely “wrong” for us are more inclined to believe a person would fall in love with an OS. And perhaps it has to do with how we feel love, or do not. I count myself among the feelers of this film. I can also appreciate the critics who say it is not believable, and that Phoenix’s character is a wussy guy who is avoiding “real” relationships. I think the film is commenting on the general problem many people have, both men and women, of not being able to connect to others. As we plug in more and more to our devices and technology many find themselves less able to interact with other human beings.

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I found myself comparing aspects of relationships portrayed, those between people and those between people and operating systems, to relationships I have had in my life. I connected the emotions of Phoenix’s character to my own memories of falling in love. I will admit that several of the scenes that packed the strongest emotional punch were between two people. The abrupt ending to the first date between Phoenix and Wild is a perfect capturing of how quickly people can attempt to connect and then disconnect, completely and rapidly. The scene where divorce papers are signed may be the most exquisite, realistic portrayal I’ve seen of that pivotal moment in a relationship’s end. The tension the divorce paper signing creates for Phoenix and “Samantha” is also compelling. The awkwardness it causes for them feels as real to me as I think it would have were “Samantha” a real woman.

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Her brought to mind Another Earth, an indie film from 2011 that also used sci-fi in a delicate, subtle matter. The film asks us to imagine what we would do if there were another earth, and what we would to say to the other version of ourselves. That premise sets the stage for a in-depth drama, exploring feelings of guilt, regret, and love. Even with something as amazing as another earth found in the sky, most people are more focused on their own personal concerns and relationships. The matters that are closest to our hearts seem to affect us much more urgently than national, global or galactic problems and events. Like Her, Another Earth left me full of thoughts and feelings, wondering how I would react if another earth did exist. I recommended it to friends for months after seeing the film and expect it will be the same with Her. They’d make a great, if heavy, double feature. This is a sub genre I hope will grow.

Jonze weaves his off-beat humor into the film, providing relief from the heavier emotional content. His artful use of music, fashion, and camera work makes for a beautiful, if strange and emotional film. I was not surprised when he won the Golden Globe for best screenplay.

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Her is interesting, full of feeling, and thought provoking. See it soon, though maybe not with anyone with whom you have a strained relationship. This film invokes strong reactions and is a guaranteed conversation starter. I am already anxious to see it again, and to talk keep talking about it.

About the Author: Jen nerds out about many things, particularly: travel, pop culture, and wine. Jen grew up in Seattle in a family of all boys. Her early obsessions included The Labyrinth, The Go-go’s, NW masterpiece Twin Peaks, and all things French. In her teen years music became her primary focus- especially the Riot grrrl scene, alternative, and Brit pop. College was filled with the likes of zine writing, feminist activism, The X-files, Tori Amos, and the novels of Tom Robbins. World travel started as a hobby and evolved into a way of life after university. After more than eight years at sea working for a major cruise line, two years in the Peace Corps in Senegal, and numerous backpacking trips, Jen has travelled to all 7 continents and over 125 countries. Jen has a BS in Psychology and a BA in Women’s Studies from the University of Utah.