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Movie review / 3 – Her

This is a movie which has created much excitement recently. As a depiction of a digital near future world it is exceptional – everything from the clothes, the dreamy, creamy palette of orange, beige and white – through to even (my god!) the soft furnishings and the characters mode of speech is detailed, astounding and believable. It is a perfect world. On a personal note though, if high waisted brown trousers are part of the future, then I’m afraid count me out.

Quick plot summary before I forget: Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is going through the final stages of divorce and installs a new operating system on his computer. The new OS is artificially intelligent, voiced by Scarlett Johannsen and he falls in love with her/it. The ‘her’ or ‘it’ part of the story is of course the key factor here, as we ponder on the nature of love and it’s acceptability throughout the film. Spoiler alert – ultimately the relationship fails as Scarlett (who is now in love with 250 other people) and who has possibly developed into a new kind of nebulous life-form disappears off into the ether in order to find herself. So far, so LA.

So, let’s cut to the chase. I’ll be honest. The movie bored me stiff. Here’s why.

The world created by Spike Jonze is an absolute tour-de-force. It has a kind of “brave new world” vibe except without the sense of underlying malevolent power and control. It is a perfect world as mentioned before, however, the thing is though it’s all so insufferably polite, thoughtful and liberally intelligent. Everyone seems to be perpetually discussing relationships, emotions and feelings, so much so that society seems to be in one big group therapy session. I felt the characters or indeed the world had absorbed so much “Soma” (possibly piped in to the air supply) that there was a sweet smelling narcotic fog between me and the action. While the acting was fabulous, I felt disengaged in the way I feel when shopping for a duvet cover.

Personally I couldn’t give a stuff for Theodore. In fact, the only time I felt really engaged was when Theodore’s soon to be ex-wife showed up to sign the divorce papers. Here we had some true emotion on display, as she by turns ridiculed the relationship and used it as evidence for Theodore’s issues in their own marriage. Now I know this scene was very much a cipher for intolerance…But it was the only time when I felt I was actually watching other human beings being…human. It was a welcome blast of emotion in an otherwise airless and stifling film.

Maybe that’s the point of the movie – that we humans in the future world are so dehumanised by our digital world and insufferable niceness and understanding towards each other, that actually an OS is more human? Dunno – but I freely admit, that for me this type of deep meaning does not a movie make.

Going back to “Brave new world” again, I guess I longed for the introduction of a savage, someone or something that could break this crystalline structure of studied perfection.

There was so much good stuff here though – the design, the cinematography, the colour palette, the acting, the idea…But ultimately, I was completely disengaged and emotionally detached from the whole affair. Again, maybe that is the point?

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