Review: Her


One of the most popular directors of his generation – Spike Jonze’ new film “Her” has finally been released after a 4 year long wait. In a world in the near future, according to Spike Jonze, people are styleless, wearing grandpa’s pants, hire writers to dictate their personal love letters, and computer Operation Systems become people’s personal assistants, with playmate personality and interfering in people’s life in every possible way.

Let’s assume that Spike Jonze watched and became deeply influenced by the 1984 British/American techno-romance film ‘Electric Dreams’ when he was 14 or 15. A corny music video style cult film, the first of its kind about human’s relationship with an Artificial Intelligent OS, and the fake nose mask that the characters Miles and Madeline purchase on a date night at Pier 39, San Francisco, which Joaquin Phoenix styled so much alike in “Her”. But Jonze’s Electric Dreams is not a film about the fear of being controlled by technology and the relationship between the nerdy glasses man and the AI OS is obviously more sensually elaborated. The San Francisco male OS, named Edgar, is jealous and self destroyed for his love to Miles, becomes a Los Angeles female OS named Samantha (voice by Scarlett Johansson) who gets terminated by Theodore’s jealousy of Samantha’s talking to 8,316 people, and in love with 641 of them, at the same time as having a relationship with Theodore.

We can hardly imagine how anyone can fall in love with the iPhone OS Siri, not only because we won’t have an actual sexual relationship with Siri, but also because we know that it’s pretty dumb to talk to a machine (or at least we are not that desperately lonely). Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a nerdy glasses, fake nose mask look, man who works as a letter-on- demand writer and lives a lonely and sad phone sex life after separation with his wife Catherine plays by Rooney Mara.

After some disappointing turn-off phone sex experiences, Theodore decides to install the female voice personalized assistant OS – Samantha – on his computer and his portable photo frame like device. At first, Samantha is like everyone’s dream come true. She automatically organizes Theodore’s schedule, filtering junk mail and even hooks him up a with a book publishing deal for all the love letters he’s written. Theodore gets used to Samantha’s presence and the two become more and more friendly and Theodore’s loneliness triggers the OS’ always ready to serve program and the two evolve their relationship to a more sensual level which makes Theodore fall in love with her and starts to believe that what they have is rare and exclusive. Later, Theodore finds out that not only he is not that exclusive with Samantha, he has been foolish to put his feelings into his own OS and who has a similar relationship with more than 600 other people. Theodore then uninstalls or downgrades the OS and turns his life back to a people talk to people type of normal life with his heart broken, lonely and equally bad styled neighbour Amy, played by Amy Adams.

Despite that Jonze’s vision of the future is perhaps not as accurate as technologically predicted, we can again confirm that to talk to or to have a relationship with a machine wil never be better than an actual human connection. And we learn that Jonze’s lack of trust in women, and to himself, reveals his cliché to blame women’s unfaithfulness, which is actually an insult to himself by letting people see his outdated unequal point of view to women. Whether you like his concept or not, Joaquin Phoneix’s acting is pretty nice to see as long as you are not disturbed by his fake nose mask look and the bad costume design.
– Shumaï Chou