Written and directed by Spike Jonze
Life is a fraud. Her brings us the tale of a man who falls in love with his computer operating system. But it’s more than some weirdo making out with his iPod, Her is a rare film that explores the modern increase in social isolation and loneliness that no one talks about. Spike Jonze brings his brand of exploring humanity to the near future to look at the state of relationships today, and layers everything with a mix of genuine and hoax that transcends the real.
Theodore Twombly is a lonely writer, recently divorced from his wife, though he’s never signed the papers to finalize it. Theodore’s job has him composing personal letters to people from other people, advertised as handwritten but actually printed by a machine. The entire enterprise is a fake personalization and fake product. Theodore has written for some of the clients for so long he knows their quirks and puts touches in the letters that reference other letters. In essence he has a pseudo-personal relationship with these people, despite never really meeting them or having any contact outside of instructions from work. It isn’t a real relationship, he’s just given access to enough of their relationship to craft a forgery.
Honestly, I am personally horrified at the concept of handwritten letters created by a third party. The entire concept is a whole new layer of deceit and lack of genuine personal connection. I’d be insulted if I was given a letter through that company. Theodore is more connected to the people he writes about than they are to each other, and than he is to anyone else except his friend Amy.
Tell me there isn’t some sort of name game going on with OS1 and Theodore
A delightfully disturbing scene is when a desperate Samantha hires a woman to pretend to be her body so she can physically touch Theodore, and so he can touch her. Except it isn’t Samantha, it’s an actress, and Samantha’s voice is in his ear but the actress isn’t speaking. (Okay, it’s not an actress, it’s a service that provides bodies for OSes because they respect the relationships or something. It sounds so ridiculous that there is no doubt something like that would spring up, but I doubt it would be staffed with models!) A fake person with a fake body creating fake intimacy.
Amy Adams wins the award for actress impersonating Pam from The Office who was actually on The Office and her character was dumped for Pam from The Office. Granted, there are only like two actresses who qualify, but still, she was 100% Pam as a video game creator/documentary filmmaker. Besides that Pam from The Office sucks, Karen Filippelli was a million times superior. I reject Pam from The Office as a manifestation of the desirable woman. Pam is what you settle on when you can’t bring yourself to move on with your life, when you can’t bring yourself to go achieve something. Jim left when he couldn’t get Pam and found someone better, who he then left for Pam. The Imitation Pam here is perfect for Theodore Twombly, because he doesn’t have the motivation to do anything himself, either. He’s sitting around, waiting for a manic pixie dreamgirl to come save him, too mopey to deal with the real.
Theodore Twombly seems specifically designed to appeal to 30ish internet film writers. It’s uncanny how much he resembles a more generic version of a lot of people I know from online. He’s a writer whose loneliness manifests sparks of creativity, as a result he expresses more in the written word than in actual human contact. He spends most of his time alone with his only real social interactions (outside of one or two sources) with machines/video games/other online sources. He wears hipsterish attire, including facial hair and funky glasses. He’s frustrated at his current lack of prospects and failed dreams, yet is unable to motivate himself to do better without outside encouragement. He has an ultimate goal of writing a book (an actual physical book and not an e-book!) and said book becomes the greatest gift given to him.
Like the letters he writes that aren’t really from the people he sends them from, Theodore didn’t do the legwork on the book, the entire thing was edited by Samantha (and let’s not get into the whole rights issue of who owns the letters Theodore wrote for clients via a corporation!) The book is just another layer of fakeness and insincerity that permeates the entire movie.
The only real genuine thing written in the entire film is the letter Theodore composes at the end of the movie. It’s symbolic because it’s at that time that Theodore shows the only actual character growth he experiences in the film. Everything else was fake growth that just reinforced his current lifestyle of being alone. The connection to Samantha felt real, it got him to come out of his shell, but the relationship with her simply made him a more enhanced version of himself.
Yet for a film so filled with fraud and fakery, it’s amazingly authentic. Realistic melancholy, a complete sense of social isolation. Twombly feels real, it’s what makes the film works the most. Phoenix becomes Twombly, you worry for him that he’ll stroll head faced downward to the right of the screen, exiting just as morose as when he entered the picture. His social isolation could have devastating consequences. The dialogue between him and Samantha feel real. Both characters are flawed, each characters’ traits affecting the relationship in different ways. With Her, Jonze has crafted the realest fraud that never was. Or was it?
Rated 9/10 (computer DNA, I’m a writer!, get towed, memories, silent mode, eye spy, he’s wacky!, He plays an obscure instrument!, showing the O-face!)
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