Rater of the Lost Art: Her
By Laura Mooney, Arts Editor
While award show madness is in full swing with the recently passed Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild awards being handed out, everyone’s eyes are now on the upcoming Academy Awards. With the ever growing list of best picture nominees, now bursting to the brim with a grand total of nine films, the coveted category for once has no clear front-runners and will remain a complete guessing game up until the pivotal moment when they announce the winner. While the majority of the films up for best picture are usually widely released, popular films, every year there is that one indie film that sneaks in under the radar, is only released in a handful of theatres, and winds up being a fantastic achievement in cinema. This year, that specific little gem is perhaps the most romantic film this reviewer has seen in a decade, about a man’s love affair with his operating system.
When first hearing that a romance between Joaquin Phoenix and a computer voiced by Scarlett Johansson is the plot to this independent film, it does not seem all that unusual that Her took a little while to pick up some steam popularity-wise. What sounds merely like the tale of a man who does not know when to power down his computer, actually turns out to be one of the most sensitive, passionate, and loving films of the year.
Phoenix plays Theodore, a recently divorced, understandably depressed writer who manoeuvers through life in a futuristic society that is only slightly more obsessed with technology than our current generation. With the inherent desire to consistently better what they already have, computer companies develop an operating system that is programmed to interact with its user with personally assigned human voices, and consistently learn from its experiences while bettering itself continuously, and of course, Theodore invests in one. What follows is the tale of Theodore and the OS Samantha’s precarious relationship as they learn to be with each other, without one half of the partnership having a physical body, and eventually come to realize the pivotal role they play in each other’s existences.
While the surface of Her is the strangest story of love ever to grace the big screen, director and writer Spike Jonze makes a few poignant comments about our own generation’s love affair with technology. Jonze presents his futuristic society as one of minimal interaction with other people, with Theodore often shown walking through a sea of people all focused on their own personal virtual universe, without even stopping to take a second glance at the real world that is around them. While we may scoff at this, as even I found myself doing while watching Her, when one takes a step back it is not too far off from what our own society has become. While we may not have our virtual glasses and earpieces that read us our daily emails yet, when was the last time anyone went a day without checking their phone or computer? Jonze paints this picture almost as a warning, that this love of technology will literally become a “love” of technology if we continue down the path we are on. I mean, do we really want to live in a society where your girlfriend is a computer and no one questions your sanity?
Rich with hidden meaning, themes of inner beauty, and not to mention stunning cinematography, Her may not end up winning the Oscar for Best Picture against some of the more popular contenders, but it is by far one of the best films of 2013, and well worth the watch.