Her (Spike Jonze, USA, 2013)

Spike Jonze’s Her is a damn fine movie. The basic premise sounds quite gimmicky – a man with a delightfully fuzzy mustache falls in love with his operating system – but Jonze manages to transcend the gimmick with aplomb. While the film made me uncomfortable at times, not just during the entirely auditory man-operating system sex scenes, but also during some of the tenderer moments between the man Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) and his operating system Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), largely due to my disgust with the idea that a person could fall in love with an inanimate object, Her is, more often than not, sweet and actually quite charming because, at its core, it is a film exploring the dynamic nature of real, human relationships, and it portrays these relationships in a deeply true and honest way.

The aspect of relationships that Jonze is interested in is its dynamism: how a relationship between two people can never stay the same because with every experience each of the two people have, they grow. Jonze makes his point primarily by illustrating the arc of Theodore and Samantha’s relationship, though the same idea is deftly expressed through Theodore’s relationships with his ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) and friend Amy (Amy Adams) as well. I don’t know why I’ve never thought about relationships this way, but this was a strikingly new idea for me. An undeniable idea, but novel no less. This is one reason why Her stands out to me as one of the best films I’ve seen this past year.

But beyond Jonze’s ability to make me think about relationships in an entirely new way, Her also strikes me as an extraordinary film because of the complex secondary themes it brings up. The relationship between man and man, and man and technology in this increasingly technologically-dependent age. The possibilities of technology and whether its full potential should be unlocked, especially when it comes to artificial intelligence. Our tolerance to difference and whether just because we cannot understand something, that means that it is wrong. Jonze impressively not only broaches all these diverse questions while maintaining a charming, easy-to-follow narrative, but also explores them in such a way that he offers forth compelling arguments but ultimately leaves the questions unanswered, forcing the viewer to think about them him or herself.  Her, in other words, is not a dumb movie that spoon feeds ideas into the heads of its viewers, but instead asks them to think about how they feel about the topics approached.

Her is an exceedingly complex film that offers a new way of seeing the world, a new way of seeing your relationships, and a new way of seeing yourself, while simultaneously being a simple and sincere love story. Aside from all that man-on-operating-system weirdness going on there, it’s easy to watch, but leaves you thinking about love and relationships and technology long after you walk out of the theater.

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