The idea of having a relationship with a virtual being is of course not novel. However, screenwriter/director Spike Jonzeâs rendition does seem to be among the more commendable developments of this core concept. To witness: the numerous accolades befallen âHerâ, mainly for Jonzeâs original screenplay, including a Golden Globe and Academy Award. The route Jonze has chosen to realize his first solo-screenplay has led â also through the very creditable exploits of Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams and Rooney Mara â to a motion picture that gives compelling food for thought and is profoundly moving and inspiring. The great accomplishment of âHerâ consists in Jonze rising beautifully to the challenge of creating conflict, to provide effective drama involving the bodiless operating system (OS) present in Johanssonâs voice. Albeit artificial intelligence specific, this drama and the resulting sympathy for that voice is made to feel very near human, aided of course by the interaction with the sensitive, relation-starved Theodore, sublimely personified by Phoenix, in whom no way we would recognize the tyrant would-be emperor from The Gladiator. It comes as no surprise that Jonze wrote âHerâ with Phoenix â and his well-established acting prowess â in mind. A couple of noteworthy aspects of âHerâ:
The setting and mood, immaculately tailored around the main characterâs ups and downs. Sterile, grey, sci-fi, a bit bleak, empty, naked without the virtual presence; then at one point suddenly totally flamboyant and sunny. Then, the voice that has chosen for herself the name Samantha. Crucial and totally deserving of that âBest Actressâ award at the Rome Film Festival. That smoky naughtiness, the sexy chuckling, the carefully captured tone belying a smile or a mood; the lightning-quick changing of that mood. The voluptuous actrice is indeed well-represented by her voice alone.
The subtlety of the volume should be mentioned. No raised voices in âHerâ. A soothing, welcome alternation, given the loud-louder-loudest competition that seems to be going on in movies today, especially with the arrival of 3D and IMAX. âHerâ seems to have done an exercise in the opposite direction and offers a smorgasbord of the soft and serene, sensitive, sweet, sexy and suggestive, also through its flesh-and-blood characters. âHerâ demonstrates and reminds us that one does not need to be âloudâ to communicate; that the wide spectrum within the lower volumes suffices.
Plot development, then. The ingenious trials and tribulations of voice-only represented Samantha; first desiring a body, then deciding (with some of that eloquent drama mentioned earlier) that she doesnât require one, consequently turning to her mind with a vengeance, evolving beyond the boundaries of a relationship with humans to the extent that she needs to leave, obviously to the distress of our main character. Here Jonze has opted for a proper Hollywood ending, suggesting that the voice-relationship sufficiently exorcized Theodoreâs demons for him to turn to humans again.
Those captivating components and details that all seem to have a purpose or at least add to the intrigue. From the main characterâs profession, to the one-style-fits-all trousers, to the curious, consistent recurrence of that deep salmon-red â mainly in the main characterâs attire, but also hinted at in the vestuary of passers-by.
Returning to picture-carrier Phoenix. Having seen the movie one can imagine no other to fill the main characterâs shoes. That feminine still-masculinity; the perfectly hit, never overplayed sensitivity bordering on loserdom without ever getting there. Most importantly: the character remains subservient to the drama, message and the implied questions, including the delicate âBeware of or rejoice in where technology is taking us?â
As to some of the underlying notions: Communication and empathy are prerequisites for any sort of relationship, among other things because everything is subject to change. Also: To seek to evolve as far as one is able is a natural thing. And: There is so much out there we cannot fathom. The ever-presence of the voice and where her journey takes her both hint at the beyond. To conclude: Joy can be found in any type of circumstance, even without a body. The movie invites to apply the imagination more for the pursuit of joy. For example by making up stories about people (keeping it nice) or dedicating a tune of oneâs own creation to a moment.
The âshould we or should we not pursue a relationship with something other than humanâ is left for each viewer to decide for themselves.