Her

What Jesse said:

Crazy movie about a guy who falls in love with his computer’s operating system. Joaquin Phoenix does a great job as an introvert going through the painful/depressing process of separating from his wife while trying to deal with the “feelings” he is developing for the latest technology available: an artificially intelligent OS very competently played (voiced) by [CENSORED].

Mike’s verdict:

Jesse got lazy with his overview of this one – probably because Brad Pitt isn’t in it – but I happen to know he liked Her a lot more than the above suggests. He definitely thought the artificial intelligence was portrayed more than just ‘competently’, and he went on a lengthy tangent about how Phoenix’s acting may or may not be affected by the untimely death of his brother.

In any case, Jesse and I agree that this film was fantastic. Whoever wrote the IMDB blurb did the film a real disservice because it sounds like Her is either a ridiculous comedy that should be staring Ben Stiller, or a geeky sci-fi flick about computers. It’s not either of those.

Her is primarily about people: how we define who and what is a person, and how we understand our connections to others. I expected that the human-computer interactions would be awkward or cheesy, but in fact they are all very natural. Spike Jonze chose to have the artificial intelligence act ‘normally’, so you can’t tell the difference between a conversation with a computer and a conversation with a live person using a  telephone. Perhaps I’ve just grown accustomed to our ever-connected environment, but to me most of the movie felt like Phoenix’s character was just in a long-distance relationship. The futuristic technology is so familiar that it never seemed like much of a stretch from what we have today; the electronic interaction never seemed out of place.

Of course there are major differences in how ‘meat’ people and virtual people see the world and that is explored brilliantly. Jesse thinks this is a story about how individual expectations based on initial impulses can turn terribly wrong when they’re allowed to develop in the imperfect, often irrational, mind. He sees the film from the ‘meat’ point of view, essentially limiting the computer to a fancy imitation of a person. He thinks Phoenix’s character tricked himself into believing a computer could be a person and then learned from his experiences. Looking at it that way, our ‘meat’ protagonist is not just the focus but the only concern.

For me that is only part of what this film is trying to say. I don’t think we are supposed to make a distinction between the ‘meat’ people and the virtual people – they’re all people, and there are actually two equal leading roles. The key is that the two main characters have different desires, view points and intentions based on their environment and abilities. Exactly like the world we live in today.

Overall, Her is a great film. The writing (there are some super awkward moments!), the music, the cinematography, the acting; everything is spot on.

10/10

One last note: I censored Jesse’s bit about the actor who voices the computer. She does an incredible job given the difficulty of expressing the character without body language, but you’re better off not knowing who the voice belongs to if you don’t already know. By the time I got around to starting the movie I had forgotten who the actor was. The voice was so familiar though that I couldn’t help but look it up halfway, and I immediately regretted it. Once you know who it is, you’ll only be able to picture her and it changes the movie.

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