Is Spike Jonze’s Her a geek film? One could argue that it is a scifi movie but the elements are so marginal that in fact it’s probably more of a romantic comedy-drama with superficial scifi tropes. BUT. This last week, I have been speaking to my students about the purpose of setting in a story and I could not help but be distracted by the setting of Her.
It does appear to be set in a near future scenario where an operating system can contain an artificial intelligence and these sentient entities can evolve into something else entirely. BUT. What is truly disconcerting is how everything is uniform – from the clothes to people’s non-stop engagement with their devices to the bizarre cordiality amongst folks makes it all seem other-worldly. I began to wonder whether the entire story was taking place inside Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) Twombly’s mind (ala Philip K Dick) and nothing was real. Which I presume makes Her come across as some sort of fable and not as a real story. And maybe that’s the point…
And whilst that is intriguing from an artistic perspective, at the end, I found it difficult to identify with the characters in Her. Although I must admit that I was swept away initially by the very concept of the romance between Theodore and the AI Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) – the scene in which the couple have ‘sex’ was a bit much though – it all becomes weird (and sad) for Theodore, although he seems to come out of the experience a better person.
I found that the story wrapped itself up a bit too nicely for my taste but being Jonze’s first solo writing job, I guess some reliance on standard film story tropes was somewhat inevitable. Like I said earlier, I was hoping for a twist to happen to explain the bizarre setting but instead the ending was a little too trite for me. Performance-wise, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and Amy Adams provided solid enough support but of course, both Phoenix and Johansson makes the whole work stand up emotionally despite the storytelling flaws.