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In Spike Jonze’s Her, one of two things happens – depending on your point of view. Either a romantic loner finds true love in the formless arms of a miracle of human engineering, or a socially stunted divorcee becomes increasingly isolated from the real world as he descends into a fantasy relationship with a soulless piece of technology.
Your interpretation of the film will likely depend on whether you view our increasingly technology-dependent world with wonder or suspicion, and it’s to the credit of this movie that it never really reveals which side of the argument it falls on. As Theodore Twombley, Joaquin Phoenix combines the initial hesitance and subsequent giddiness of falling in love with the self-conscious awkwardness of somebody who is always aware on some level of the inherent strangeness of his situation.
In an entirely offscreen role as the voice of ‘Samantha’ the sophisticated operating system who entrances Twombley, Scarlett Johansson delivers a performance so natural that it starts to feel unnervingly unnatural – as if her breezy good humour and occasional bursts of lust and insecurity are programmed to be more human than actual humans. She’s intelligent, tender, capable and sympathetic – but there’s a cleanness to her performance that hints at a fundamental absence of humanity.
The edges of this unconventional romance are populated by supporting character played by as Amy Adams and Chris Pratt, among others, whose unquestioning support and acceptance of Theodore’s relationship with ‘Samantha’ adds to the Black Mirror-esque quality of the film. Only Rooney Mara as Catherine, Theodore’s estranged (human) wife seems to take issue with her soon to be ex-husband’s retreat from traditional intimacy.
In the course of pitching sequels to this movie, it transpired that the two of us had fairly polarised interpretations of the central relationship at the heart of the movie. This in turn led to our sequels taking very different paths, as you’ll hear in this week’s episode…
John’s Pitch | Her 2: Single White Operating System
Harry’s Pitch | Her 2: Back To Reality
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