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HindustanTimes Sun,13 Jul 2014

Movie review: Her gives a human touch to virtual love

Hindustantimes.com  New Delhi, February 14, 2014
First Published: 17:51 IST(14/2/2014) | Last Updated: 19:22 IST(14/2/2014)

We all remember Raj Koothrapalli falling hopelessly in love with Siri, the voice of Apple's iPhones, in The Big Bang Theory. And if we are honest, all of us are just a little bit in love with our phones. Okay, we will come out and say it, we are all obsessed with our smartphones. We wake up with them instead of the person sleeping next to us. A day without the phone lying reassuringly next to us? Unimaginable!

Now, the year is 2025 and Joaquin Phoenix's Theodore Twombly has fallen in love with his computer. Called Samantha, this operating system is voiced by a very husky Scarlett Johansson. And as their relationship develops, we see real emotion and intimacy. Welcome to another of filmmaker Spike Jonze's bewildering worlds which got this film an Oscar nomination in the best film category.

"Her is a keeper of a film, quietly dazzling. It's directed by Spike Jonze (the man behind Being John Malkovich and Adaptation). Shot in the hazy, honeyed glow of a quirky car ad, you can watch it simply as the history of one man's romantic life," writes Cath Clarke of Time Out.

Twombly's story can be the story of a lonely man anywhere -- and that's where its appeal lies. His life is populated by four women and ironically, Samantha is the most 'real' of them. "There are four Hers. First is Theodore's ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara, go-to actress for a frosty ex), who we see in flashback and one bitter scene where she is devastating about his relationship with Samantha: 'You always wanted a wife without the challenges of someone real.' Next is Samantha, then there's a disastrous blind date scene with Olivia Wilde. In the background is Amy Adams (so natural, she barely seems to be acting) as Theodore's geeky-cool best friend," Clarke says.

Liam Lacey of Globe and Mail explains how the film's strength lies in its treatment. "But what really saves it is its probing, uncertain search for meaning: It's an odd, sad love story, combined with a meditation on technology as an accelerator of social loneliness. Not a small part of it seems to be an allegory of lonely guys and their fear of women."

A still from Her.


So, relationship with an OS for the lonely 'us' can be a new normal at some point in the future? That is a seductive thought, says Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian. "The film unwinds, inevitably, in a sentimental and slightly moralistic way, but it is seductive and subversive when it suggests that their relationship is part of an evolving and re-normalising landscape: a world in which men and women are increasingly having relationships with their OS and the stigma is dwindling. Her has the same defiantly wistful man-child regression Jonze showed in his version of Where the Wild Things Are - a singular exercise in imagination, almost a postmodern pastoral."

He also has some issues with film. "Her is a really distinctive piece of work, which has drawn countless adoring notices and endless gags about Siri, the voice of Apple's iPhone. I wished I liked it more. It is engagingly self-aware and excruciatingly self-conscious, wearing its hipness on its sleeve; it's ingenious and yet remarkably contrived. The film seems very new, but the sentimental ending is as old as the hills. There are some great moments."
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