Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Her

Lowdown: A man falls in love with a virtual artificial intelligence.
Review:
I was looking forward to watching Her, considering it to have the potential to be one of this year's best movies. I mean, a film about a guy falling in love with a virtual entity? In many respects, I see that type of scenario as humanity's future.
And the director, Spike Jonze. The guy who brought us Adaptation and Being John Malkovich. If anyone knows how to make a movie out of this mess that will appeal to smarts, rather than try to tantalise with special effects, it's him.
But then I saw Her and realised that instead of another quality Adaptation I was watching another bore-fest like Where the Wild Things Are.
Set in some near future, Her is a movie that is much more focused on its central character, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), than the vast majority of all other movies I have seen. Our Theodore is now divorced of wife Catherine (a Rooney Mara looking decidedly different to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), although he wishes he wasn't. He spends his days at his office, writing letters for other people, but doesn't really know what to do with himself outside of work. In order to fall asleep, for example, he asks his smartphone to find him a willing partner for some virtual sex. And yes, this can get weird.
Things change when a new person enters Theodore's life: the new breakthrough artificial intelligence operating system he communicates with through his smartphone, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Slowly but surely, he falls for Siri, sorry, Samantha (and Samantha falls for him). Obviously, the Apples of this world do not manufacture one gadget only; the same phenomenon applies to others around him and affects people around him. People like Theodore's real life friend Amy (an Amy Adams that seems to boldly go without makeup, or at least as without makeup as one can be on a movie set).
Her definitely has the style. It portrays its vision of a future through a certain set of colors, looks, costumes and makeup (mustachios are predicted to be popular). Then there is the focus on Phoenix, who has to act against a virtual entity - that is, he's acting with no one by his side for the bulk of this movie. I have to say that Phoenix musters this challenge without missing a beat.
Alas, Her the movie does not muster its challenge. It is far too slow and far too focused in its artistic style. So much so that when meaningful events happened, and eventually they do, I was just too tired.
I will note that Her is pessimistic about the success of a relationship between a person and a virtual entity. Even Mass Effect tends to agree: in there, Joker only falls for EDI when she manifests herself in a physical body. Her's sequel, therefore, should focus on a humanoid robot's love affair with a person.
Interesting scene: How does one shoot a scene of virtual sex between a man and a virtual AI? Jonze's solution is to switch things off and provide us with a fairly lengthy blackness for the duration of the sexual climax. Pretty daring, I would say, although it certainly attracts attention away from the portrayed events and into the director's particular style.
Overall: As much as I find its subject matter interesting, I also found Her to be way too boring to recommend. I really wanted to rate Her higher for its deep discussion of a subject matter I find very interesting. Ultimately, though, I feel I have to rate it at 2 out of 5 crabs full of unfulfilled expectations.

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