her: A real look at unreal relationship

25 Feb

her (2013)

her (2013)


When I first heard the premise story of ‘her’ about a guy who falls in love with his OS, the first thing that came to my mind was, “What a fucking hipster story.” But when I heard it was done by Spike Jonze, I thought it was worth checking it out. Spike Jonze, the writer/director of ‘her’ is a household name among hipsters. Hell, he was a fucking hipster way back in the 90’s (making underground skateboarding  & cool music videos) before hipster became such a derogative term as it is today, but at least he is the OG (older guy) of hipster and he is actually very talented.

The thing with Jonze is that he’s not ‘the gritty guy’ who tries to impress you with violence or death or trying to be controversial like many of his contemporaries from the 90’s. He always marched to the beat of his own drum. I remember watching his first music video for Weezer’s ‘Undone-The Sweater  Song’, and it was so different and unique but at the same time you could feel the sincerity/emotion behind it. Back then most music videos looked the same; it had a dirty sephia grungy look, fast editing, it purposely looked depressing/like shit because it was the in thing to do.

Seeing Jonze’s music videos was literally a breath of fresh air (who can topped Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’?) in the suffocating ghetto of shitty grunge/depressing videos. For that alone, Jonze will always be an inspiration.

From an outset, ‘her’ is simply a story about wanting to find that human connection, to be heard/not be judged and be understood. Although some people were focusing too much on the technology side of an evolving OS who tried to emulate human emotions, for me personally it’s an unflinching story about relationship in all it’s glorious highs and heartaches.  And that’s what makes it work.

You meet someone special, you fall in love, whatever they do is endearing, you can’t see their faults, then you start to experience the tedious side of relationship, familiarity breeds contempt, you start to evolve, you start to expect things, you become insecure/greedy and you start picking on them/take them for granted, eventually it will all go to shit.

It’s hard to make a love story that really works and sincere because most movies don’t want to deal with the grey area, we are so accustomed to seeing crappy rom-coms or Hollywood extravaganza happy endings that in the end it left us feeling numb inside. Like being forced fed too much sweet, albeit expensive ones.

‘her’ shares the same peripheral vision as ‘Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind’ in which both their cores share the same unflinching and raw look on relationship but are covered in lo sci-fi templates to make their points stronger. One deals with memory, the other with connection.

Jonze’s vision of the future is not dystopia or even utopia (Like Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine), it’s just a neutral existence where men and technology gently exist alongside each other. The machines won’t enslave you but it doesn’t solve all your problems either. Although Jonze made a gentle nudge about our preoccupation with technology in a scene where Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) rides the train and everyone is occupied with their phones or the bit about hooking up digitally with random stranger when you’re alone, bored and horny; it feels more like mild jab and not menacing.

 Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of Theodore is both heartfelt and restrained at the same time like what Jim Carrey did on Eternal Sunshine. And of course Scarlett Johansson portrayal of Samantha as the OS who is programmed to emulate human emotions might be too good, by halfway through, I forgot she was even meant to be a computer and to me the story somehow evolved into two people who are involved in a long distance relationship.

‘her’ works tremendously because of it’s openness to reveal the vulnerability and fragility of relationship; that good things eventually turn sour and by taking it’s time to get to know each character and the way they evolved in the opposite direction. He gets too attached to her, she finally outgrows him from being programmed to solely pleasing him to discover a higher self awareness that eventually over taking her ‘humanity’ and renders him obsolete. But it was a great journey for both, filled with blissfulness, soul connection and all the treacherous pitfalls of doubts, jealousy and final separation. Just like in real life.


2 Responses to “her: A real look at unreal relationship”

  1. atthematinee at 2:00 am #

    When I’ve been telling people about her, I always open with what I had originally thought the film was going to be a dark forewarning of our relationship with technology. I was especially impressed by the open-minded nature of the film, so it’s great to see this kind of honesty mentioned in your post too. Excellent insight, I really enjoyed reading this!

    • joegievano at 10:15 am #

      Hey thanks a lot, appreciate it! I think ‘her’ really hit the mark with the highs and lows of relationship in a realistic way even though its dealing with technology, that’s what makes it special.

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