Jan 20

Watching Joaquin Phoenix in Her

Her Spike Jonze

Been looking through the Oscar Best Picture nominees this year and decided to give Her a try.  Yesterday, I tried to watch August Osage County, but couldn’t go through another Meryl Streep movie where she has cancer and literally fell asleep halfway.  Saw The Wolf of Wall Street, not bad — but it’s not Inception. I’ve seen Dallas Buyers Club and Jared Leto was very convincing, but it’s too depressing for me.  On the other hand, American Hustle is just another con artist movie with Academy darlings Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.  Last year I tried to see The Master, but it didn’t get interesting enough for me.  Was actually expecting Her to be something weird that I would not pick up on.  It actually blew me away.  The story is set in the future, but really quite simple.  What made it one of the most interesting movies I have seen is the way it seemed to be able to show how we connect with each other as human beings.

It appears that Joaquin Phoenix’s career post his “I’m Still Here” mocumentary with Casey Affleck didn’t have a negative impact on his career.  He isn’t making blockbuster movies, but he is making movies that make it to the Oscars 2 years in a row.  When Hollywood is fraught with so many mediocre movies now, that is impressive.  He seems to have put himself on a different level now.

Her is about a writer named Theodore Twombly who develops a relationship with his new OS, Samantha.  Samantha is an upgraded version of Siri — maybe a version of Siri a decade from now :-)).  He was going through a divorce with his ex-wife when this happens.  It was funny when we saw Raj develop an affair with Siri in The Big Bang Theory a year or so ago, but Theodore’s relationship is hardly comedic.  I think it depicts our innate desire to connect with someone, whether human or AI, and have someone to talk to and laugh about life without being judged or having the need to please or satisfy that person.  But in the end, it seems anything that a human being creates, develops like a human being too.  Of course, the story is fictional, but it is truly interesting.

Is it really possible for us to fall in love with a machine?  Well, if you are a guy and the OS sounds like Scarlett Johansson, of course it is.  But whether it’s a person or a machine, it’s still scary to be left alone.  The biggest risk in connecting with another life is the possibility of disconnection.  Then again, if we try to protect ourselves by living alone, it still happens — we are always drawn to another entity.  Whether we like it or not, we are social beings — look how much money some people are making out of this fact.

My hats off to writer and director Spike Jonze — Her is brilliant.  It’s simple, yet thought-provoking.  Good to know there is still a 21st century drama/romantic movie out there I can put on my best movie list.  I can imagine my best friend chuckling as she reads this — I find a romantic movie I like, but it had to be partly sci-fi.  Ok, I’m such a nerd.

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