Review: HER (2013)
December 31, 2013 § Leave a comment
(9/10) Is it any wonder that once upon a time Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola were married? I think not, as evidenced by HER, which is in style, tone, subject matter and message, an obvious companion piece to Lost In Translation. Both films are about people running away from failed romances, getting in too deep with a passing fancy and realizing the harsh reality that the honeymoon period of a new relationship cannot be sustained, no matter how seemingly perfect the connection is.
Joaquin Phoenix, long absent from the silver screen due to some experimental art and a self-imposed hiatus, returns to form as Theodore, a professional writer of love letters for clients dealing with long distance romances on top of heavy schedules, while his own romantic life has fallen apart, resulting in separation and inevitable divorce. Phoenix perfectly captures a character who, at first, seems a little mawkish, awkward and unable to come out of his shell until it later becomes clear he exists in the near future, when such personality traits appear to be rather common. He has friends, he socializes, he can hold a conversation and doesn’t back down from spontaneity, yet he is isolating himself due to the sadness of the divorce. He plays video games (who hilariously talk back in a profane manner), he politely turns down social invitations, or agrees to go but simply skips the event, but otherwise seems psychologically healthy.
In this future, the latest and greatest fad technology are highly advanced Artificial Intelligence Operating Systems that one can purchase and program in minutes in order experience the convenience of an ideal friendship twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The A.I.O.S. learns at light year speeds, quickly establishing a unique personality and perspective while allowing the human user to form what feels like a genuine, multi-faceted friendship with it.
In Theodore’s case, his A.I.O.S. names herself Samantha, who is brought to life by the sultry voiced Scarlett Johansson. In fractions of milliseconds Samantha the A.I.O.S. offers up knowledge, understanding and empathy that real human take decades to be functional at, let alone master, which nobody ever really does. As the perfect friend, Samantha slowly develops into the perfect partner for Theodore, acting as what today might be called an On Line girlfriend, replete with phone sex, web cam dates and the like, even though she has no form as an image. She is and always will be a disembodied voice.
All the issues that come with an exclusively Internet based relationship crop up for Theodore and Samantha, compounded by limitations of physics, logic and human intuition. O.S. spouses are quickly becoming the norm in this future, for better or worse.
Helmer Spike Jonze, working for the first time from an original script, does a wonderful job of capturing the magic of new romance; the so-called honeymoon period, which appears quite identical no matter who or what enters into a quixotic relationship. Theodore’s innate skill with romantic conversation is both his bread and butter as well as his downfall. His idealism and verisimilitude is what makes him succeed professionally, going so far as to toy with the idea of publishing his professional love letters in book form, while blinding him to harsh truths in his personal life.
Theodore never once comes across as naïve or afraid of real human interaction, as his best friend is a lovely woman named Amy (Amy Adams) with whom he shares a deep, genuine connection that bears no sexual tension and that suits both of them just fine. Adams, as Amy, is fantastically normal. She is dealing with her own lifeless marriage to a conceited know-it-all Charles (Matt Letscher), also seemingly hiding away behind a friendship with her own A.I.O.S. Adams never comes off as either frumpy and unattractive, nor tomboyish, nor any other cliche to explain the contentment of the platonic interaction between herself and Theodore.
Supposedly Lost in Translation was loosely about the dissolution of Sofia Coppola’s relationship with Spike Jonze. Well, ten years later, it appears that Spike Jonze has formed his response to his ex wife’s ode to untenable romance. Apart from the stylistic similarities of the Tokyo-looking city and overall aesthetics, HER is every bit an uncompromising look at the solitude in companionship and every bit as brave, personal and satisfying.