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Her by Spike Jonze

February 1, 2014

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Who is Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix)? Just one more guy facing a mid-life crisis? When we meet him in Her Thedore is divorcing Catherine (Rooney Mara) and works an emotionally disturbing job, I’d say this is the basic storyline but then of course the reason why there is so much talk about Her is its technological, Sci-Fi elements with Theodore living in an unspecified dystopian future that will lead him to fall in love with an OS. Who is Her? Her is a presence in Theodore’s life and Theodore ignores how to deal with this presence: Theodore’s emotional and sentimental life constitutes the heart of this film, Thedore’s (soon to be former) wife Catherine is Her, his great friend Amy (Amy Adams) is Her and of course Samantha – the voice of his OS (Scarlett Johansson) – is Her. The opening scene is quite significant, at first we don’t understand what is going on, we see a guy in his forties writing a letter to his wife and he is talking about the fifty years they have spent together, then a slow camera movement will reveal he is a worker at ¨Beautifuhandwrittenletters.com¨ so what do we have here? a guy unable to manage properly his own emotions who is helping other people to manage theirs: are emotions fake and are we always unable to deal with them?

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The main problem with Her is that it is a film much more interesting when you write about it then when you watch it, Jonze scratches the surface of a lot of interesting themes here but never reaches their core: we have a beautifully designed dystopia, the dresses and the furniture are so carefully conceived and cars are practically absent from the film but this new world has no substance, only appearance, it plays no role in the development of the story nor in our understanding of it and in a way this could be the skin-deep meaning of Her: no matter how technology changes the way we live some basic human situations will never change. The closing scene (above) echoes Woody Allen’s Manhattan, confirming that we are on the right track trying to read Her as a meditation on the state of sentimental relationships, but Theodore is no Isaac or Alvy Singer, so why should we care about this anonymous character? Her presents a few funny moments but I ignore if and how Jonze intended them to be funny, the first lovemaking between Theodore and Samantha echoes the early scene with Theodore and SexyKitten, if Her was a satire this would have been a memorable scene; then we have the choice of Scarlett Johansson’s voice which is inherently funny: I mean this is one of the hottest females on planet Earth, we know her voice so it’s impossible not to think of her as a human body even if she plays an OS – on this regard the most hilarious scene is the one where the OS wants to use a surrogate body to make love to Theodore, it doesn’t end well but how could? He is dating Scarlett Johansson’s voice, who wouldn’t be disappointed when she shows up in Portia Doubleday’s body? In a way this scene summarizes the film: what you hear is not what you get and posing yourself as a philosopher will not make you one, amassing multiple layers of superficiality will not make your film interesting, maybe Jonze thought the core was the rind.

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