“Sometimes I think I’ve already felt everything I’m every going to feel. And from here on out, I’m not going to feel anything new… just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.”
Ahoy, renegades! Aidan here.
This one did a number on me.
While watching Spike Jonze’s Her, you’ll invariably catch yourself reflecting on any number of failed relationships, revisiting the torrents of pain and and fear you endured to protect the most important – and yet most delicate – experience life has to offer. Love. A connection.
Jonze deftly wields the film’s central metaphor – the ultimate sense of longing – and uses it to explore what it truly means to love and be loved, and how to navigate a world where relationships are defined in an entirely different way than they were a mere decade ago.
The necessity for human connection, since the beginning of time, has never changed. But the avenues and conveniences available to get there have. Do these invalidate the merit of a true connection?
Anyways, let’s get to it.
Her follows Theodore Twombly (Phoenix), a meek denizen of future Los Angeles who is recovering from the recent split from his wife and best friend (Mara). After multiple failed attempts at dating, Theodore installs a newly invented operating system, an OS that is self-aware and intelligent, developed to match his personality completely. Naturally, he connects with with Samantha (Johansson) immediately, and their bond soon grows into something deeper. But as Samantha grows and evolves daily, expanding past the boundaries of her programming, her new experiences begin to disconcert Theodore.
Performances in Her are as solid as expected, across the board – I had heard early buzz about Johansson’s portrayal of Samantha, and was naturally skeptical at the awards potential for a purely vocal performance from an actress who has rarely left me awestruck. But Johansson delivers a tour de force. Samantha isn’t just a voice; she experiences elation, passion, anger, melancholy, hurt, and wisdom. She grows in her own capacities and in her relationship with Theodore as any human would – it’s a fantastic performance that pushes the boundaries of its central conceit.
Johansson is rivaled only by Phoenix, who is as strong as ever. Theodore, like everyone in the audience, is out to find a soul-mate, a matching puzzle piece. But true relationships are about sharing growth, and Samantha’s seemingly infinite sentient capacities begin to grow in ways that Theodore cannot possibly comprehend, let alone share.
No matter the conduit, relationships are relationships. Natural, age-old complications will always find their ways in.
The themes in Her are ubiquitous, but will undoubtedly hit closer to home with certain audiences. I’ve come across several critics comparing Her to The Graduate, and I feel this comparison could not be more spot-on.
Here is a movie that delicately explores ethereal, generational themes of longing and disconnect in a context that older generations – without the frame of reference of true experience – cannot understand.
This pulsating, gently bruising weight of cyber-melancholia is real, tangible, painful. Spike Jonze takes our hearts and pours them into a powerful on-screen collage that is Her.