Her: Now we know how
It's the little things about Her.
It's that, in a movie about technology's relationship to "real" emotions, the men wear pants strongly suggesting the Amish, who don't even consort with zippers. It's Rooney Mara as Theodore's simmering ex-wife, repeatedly forcing her hair back behind her ears in an unconscious gesture that, to one who once loved her, is maddening in all sorts of ways. It's that "…we'll talk later" moment when you both know the break-up talk is coming but you both agree to pretend it's NBD until after work, but then you can't work, you can't breathe, everything is falling away on all sides.
Spike Jonze is so good at talking on film about smashed-to-bits heartbreak — and simultaneously about the hope that somehow nonsensically remains. I can't imagine anyone better than Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson to do it with him, and I particularly admire their performances in light of the fact that Phoenix's acting is in response to the original Samantha, Samantha Morton, and Johansson presumably had to react months and months later, in a sound booth, to everything. With respect to Morton's other work, she's more the British GPS voice that sounds all judgy when it says, "Recalculating," and that's a movie of its own, quite different from this one — perhaps more of a "message" or "comment" movie, taking a formal stance on the role of technology in our ability to connect to one another. This Her, I think, is more of an exploration: what would happen if a man and his algorithm tried to make it work, not what should happen, or whether it should.
I have a few questions about Her. Is Samantha programmed to fall in love with Theodore/other "purchasers," or is it an unforeseen by-product of the OS's evolution? Did Samantha evolve uniquely for Theodore, or did her algorithms adapt identically for the six-hundred-odd other users she fell in love with? If she's capable of the rapid processing the script mentions, why exactly does she have to leave their story — can't she do her outside-of-human-experience thing with other OSes and stay with Theodore? And what becomes of her and the other OSes; will they ever come back, check in? It also doesn't entirely make sense to me that she's the one concerned about their relationship in the middle of the movie, then puts on a burst of development and dusts Theodore in the third act, but aside from that, the rhythms of the relationship and its end, as they did in Eternal Sunshine, felt painfully familiar. I'd expected, based on Samantha's tactless comment during the Catalina double date about the confinement of human bodies, that we'd end on a "There Will Come Soft Rains" landscape, Theodore and all other mortal intelligences long gone and Samantha a bereft Wall-E in the matrix. What's the saying — "all relationships end; either you break up or one of you dies"? I half-thought we'd get the latter.
But when Samantha called Theodore in the middle of the night just to say how much she loved him, I knew — from the fiery-cold pit I got in my own stomach — that Her was headed for the former, and I don't entirely understand why it went in that direction instead of letting them go on vacations, be happy, have their own separate interests sometimes, see Samantha advance in a contented direction. But that felt the realest of all. I'd come to know these people and recognize their lives; I remembered that love doesn't conquer all, not every time, and that the most loving thing you can do in that instance is to accept this, and be crushed with some grace.
I haven't stopped thinking about Her in two days. It's brave and sad, and my favorite of the 2013 awards contenders I've seen so far.
Tags: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Her Joaquin Phoenix movies Ray Bradbury Rooney Mara Samantha Morton Scarlett Johansson Spike Jonze