Cinema Central: “Her” Takes Digital Romance to a New Level
In "Her," Spike Jonze takes on love, technology and a futuristic L.A.
Where should virtual relationships end and real relationships began?
Writer-director Spike Jonze aims to finds out in his latest retro-modern romance film Her, where a loner falls in love with his phone’s sultry-voiced operating system.
Set in a not-so-distant-future Los Angeles where the builders are taller, our information is delivered faster and men wear high-waist slacks circa 1972, Joaquin Phoenix is Theodore Twombly, an introverted professional letter-writer coming to terms with a pending divorce from his estranged wife, played by Rooney Mara. Aside from his mundane, yet emotionally draining job and his friendship with neighbor Amy (Amy Adams), Theodore has little going on in his day-to-day life aside from his video games until he buys/meets Samantha.
It’s not hard to see how Theodore could fall for Samantha: Her voice is painfully sexy (thanks to Scarlett Johansson), she’s available whenever and for whatever he needs (ranging from a daily wake up call to steamy phone sex), she challenges him as a person and as a professional, and because her design is based on his preferences and subconscious, she connects with Theodore in a way that the real women in his world simply aren’t equipped.
Jonze uses his signature aesthetic and clever storytelling to tap into what defines the futuristic relationship, doing so in a way that is instantly relatable given how modern-day consumers rely heavily on their devices. It’s telling that from his colleague to his best friend, those in Theodore’s world are incredibly accepting of his love for Samantha, giving Jonze the chance to start a dialogue about how social norms can shift given enough time and persistence.
Though Her is a realist’s take on a Sci-Fi love story, Jonze is quick to criticize the flaws that come with technological reliance. His characters, both major and minor, are often too absorbed in their own digital existence to acknowledge those around them, almost to the point where they forfeit genuine human connection for the artificial equivalent on a routine basis. Jonze eloquently captures why this is damning for mankind, all while challenging the audience to closely examine what role they would potentially play in his hyper-digital universe.
We are in a time where our digital existence is growing to be just as important—and occasionally more important—than our real lives, and Her shows that the two can co-exist, but only within reason.
On thing is certain: After Her you’ll never look at your phone the same way again.
Shontel Horne is the Senior Lifestyle and Entertainment Producer for Loop21.com. Follow her on Twitter @writerrambling.