HER (2013)

Maybe it's a he/she thing. A lot women I know, including myself, weren't that fond of the film Her, while men were more enthusiastic. Directed by Spike Jonze, Her takes place in the slightly distant future, a time when people are even more plugged in to their technology than we are now. In that reality, a fancy new operating system has been developed, one that functions as phone, computer, camera, music player, etc., much like our smart phones, but this little portable OS stores all your data, and communicates just like a person. The voice of the OS can be male or female, of course, and modulated just how you like it. As a matter of fact, its personality adapts to suit you, based on what the system knows about you via your information and input. Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, lonely and dejected as he finalises a divorce, buys the new system, the voice of which is portrayed by Scarlett Johansson. No wonder men like this film. I'm sure they imagine that sexy rasp whispering in their own ear all day, at their beck and call, not only fulfilling their every request, but anticipating it: culling emails, organising and archiving documents, screening phone calls, learning what music they like, complimenting, encouraging, laughing at their jokes, and listening, with rapt interest. Like all the new systems, Samantha, as Theodore's OS is called, has the capacity to grow and learn exponentially. When Theodore is not actively using her, she's communicating with other OSs, joining book clubs, composing symphonies, writing novels. Yet she's devoted to Theodore and...get this, they become romantically involved. (Ew.) They even figure out how to have sex. (Ew again.) Some people, mostly men, as I said, found this aspect romantic. I found it unsettling.

I can't argue that Phoenix gives an amazing performance as the insecure, intelligent soul that Theodore is, a man whose job it is to write personal letters for people who can't summon their own sense of the poetic. Nevertheless, he's a little creepy. As a matter of fact, "creepy" is the first word that springs to mind when I think of Her. The movie gets creepier still when we find out that Theodore is not the only one having a relationship with his OS.
His good friend Amy, played by Amy Adams, finds a best friend in hers when her boyfriend walks out. Unlike fickle human beings, the OS is dependable. Samantha is with Theodore everywhere he goes. She's even his date at dinner parties, a bodiless presence, full of wit, charm and scintillating conversation. But she begins to get possessive, her feelings hurt when he doesn't give her his full attention. She gets needy and whiny, a co-dependent computer. The movie takes an interesting twist from there though, and the way it all turns out is surprising, even fairly satisfying, but I just couldn't get behind the premise overall. (If nothing else was going to turn me off, Phoenix's icky mustache was sure to do it.) Come Academy Awards night, March 2, we'll see how this smaller, more intimate film holds up against the many big-screen extravaganzas of 2013. If it does well, we'll know the majority of the Academy members are men.

Movie reviewed by Georgina Young-Ellis

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