Movie Review: Her

Movie: Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Original Score, Original Song ("The Moon Song"), Production Design, Original Screenplay (5 nominations total)

Her is a really intriguing film by Spike Jonze, who has done a number of intriguing films. The plot summary is that there's a guy who writes "handwritten" letters as part of a service for people he's never met. He has broken up with his wife (or rather, she broke up with him) and has been putting off signing his divorce papers. He's lonely and all the spark has gone out of his life -- he misses his wife, or at least he misses someone, and he can't seem to find anything on his own worth living for. About this time, an "intelligent" operating system is released. He upgrades his computer accordingly, and thus Samantha enters his life -- the name the AI gives herself. Oddly, the two fall in love with one another, with Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix) realizing that life's worth living and Samantha coming to terms with her unique situation and becoming more than anyone ever thought she'd be, including herself.

This film is a love story, I'll grant you, but it's not primarily a love story -- or if it is, it exists simultaneously with Theo's story of finding himself again and Samantha's story of learning what it is to exist as an individual, not simply as an extension of someone else or a tool. To that extent, I suppose you could say it's like a lot of good relationship films -- but Samantha's status as an AI complicates matters in unforeseen ways. All of these tracks proceed with roughly equal force, even though Theo is our point of view character and our interactions with Samantha are limited to his interactions with her. But similar stories are going on all throughout the background of this film -- Theo is not an outlier, and lots of people are coping with these changes. There are questions of self-realization, of the rights of non-bodied or differently bodied people, of where tools stop and people begin, of the inherent stability of a highly tech-based society and so forth. It may be a low-key science fiction film, but it definitely is a piece of very thoughtful science fiction, and thus achieves something rarely seen in the genre today.

Also, it's worth noting that I am involved in a relationship with a polyamorous man, and he has girlfriends. I have not, as yet, found anyone I am terribly interested in having a relationship with, though I could if I wanted. We all went to see it together, as we all get along and it sounded like fun. This movie hit us all in unexpected ways. It provides a thoughtful treatment of relationship models and how love is not a one-size-fits-all sort of thing. I won't say more than that -- you'll understand when you see it, and probably have strong feelings about that point in the movie that are worth thinking about.

I don't know, honestly, if I expect Her to get any particular award, possibly with the exception of Original Screenplay, which it deserves hands down. I was touched by the performances, I appreciated the thoughtfulness, and I will most likely buy it to keep on my shelf and possibly teach from time to time. Overall, it's definitely one you should go see if you haven't. It's totally worth it.


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