The first time I saw the trailer for Spike Jonze’s new film Her, the music, and the beauty of the soft light and smooth transitions captivated me, but the actual storyline (once I realized what it was) turned me off. I figured, “maybe I’ll watch that one day when it’s on Netflix.” Though of course, now it’s awards season and curiosity has gotten the best of me. I wanted to see it for myself, if only to be in awe of the beautiful cinematography.
Yesterday, after a fun mid-morning brunch, I headed to the theatre for an early show. The theatre was mildly crowded, the audience a sprinkle of a variety of ages. The occasional giggle (usually in particular awkward scenes, probably to shift the tension of the uncomfortable moments,) rustling of candy boxes and popcorn bags, and a girl chewing ice in the seat in front of me, but other than that none of the usual chatter that sometimes buzzes throughout the darkness. I wonder if everyone else in the theatre was trying to process the film playing out in front of him, as well?
Joaquin Phoenix plays a man, Theodore Twombly, who is in the process of getting a divorce from his wife Catherine (played by Rooney Mara.) He’s in a lonely mostly socially isolated state, spending most of his evenings alone playing video games (that are completely interactive.) Then Theodore gets a new operating system for his computer, set-up as a female, Samantha (the voice of Scarlett Johansson) based off of a simple questionnaire. He quickly “bonds” with the O.S. and soon they’re in a self-described, “relationship.”
It’s bizarre but also doesn’t seem completely out of the question, you know? Throughout the film, I kept having nagging thoughts about our society’s complete dependence on technology. I had one of those urges to come home and deactivate all of my accounts – but in honesty, I like keeping in touch with people through them, and the key is obviously just to incorporate some moderation.
Theodore works for a company called beautifulhandwrittenletters.com. The writers dictate letters into a microphone and they’re typed out in the “sender’s” handwriting. The letters range from husbands missing their wives on work trips, to parents congratulating their children on graduation. At first I thought, “wow! What an awesome job!” But then, as someone who spent the past two mornings writing real cards and letters to friends – I found the idea completely disturbing. Some of the writers had been creating letters for families for decades. People should be able to write these heart-felt sentiments themselves (in the movie, and in real life.)
At the same time, I found the whole premise kind of funny. The film shows, bustling L.A. with thousands of people wandering around the lively city, and tons of them have these little earpieces in, talking not with the people around them, but to their computers with a little handheld device that looks like a foldable iPod.
During brunch, we discussed what it would have been like to go to college before cell phones. Remember the days when there were just landlines for home phones, and caller ID didn’t exist? It seems strange now to think that it would be a surprise who was calling on the other end of the line, or that you’d have to make plans and set times and actually stick to them in order to meet up with someone in public to hangout.
I think overall, the need for true person-to-person interaction is clear. The experiences we can’t live to the fullest through technology are plainly obvious. There’s that invisible line between fascination at the capabilities of imagination and innovation, and the creepy part of taking it all too far – where we as a world become way too out of touch and distant from reality. It’s a reminder we all need to put our phones away and enjoy the moments we’re in and the company we’re sharing them with.
Her was beautifully made, and gives the audience a lot to think about, but ultimately I found the film kind of unsettling. I was reminded of the 2002 film S1M0NE while I was watching, and combined with the act of checking my phone to see what time it was halfway through the film, (which I never do in theatres) are probably both signs that even if I wanted to like this one, maybe it’s just not for me. I can still appreciate that the visual aspects of the film were gorgeous, and the acting is great (think how difficult it must be to perform most of the scenes by yourself!) Also, maybe just a personal bit, but I’ll confess that I could go a long, long while before listening to Scarlett Johansson’s voice again. As I was exiting the theatre I overheard an elderly man seated in front of me exclaim “Is there a movie Amy Adams isn’t in?!” which I had to smile at because the same thought had occurred to me, as well. It will be interesting to see how everything plays out during the awards. I haven’t talked to anyone else who’s seen it yet, so I’m curious to hear what others thought about it. Please feel free to share in the comments!