Thursday, June 25, 2015

Her Who Must be Obeyed

Since we've been catching up on SF films of the 2010s starring Scarlett Johansson, we watched Her (2013), directed by Spike Jonze. It really stars Joaquin Phoenix (Inherent Vice) - the camera almost never leaves his blank, dweeby face.

It takes place about 25-50 years in the future, in a Los Angeles full of skyscrapers. Phoenix is a lonely guy with an R. Crumb mustache who is going through a divorce from his childhood sweetheart. He has an apartment with floor to ceiling windows and all he does is stare into space, sigh, and play hologram video games. His job is writing deep emotional "handwritten" (computer generated) notes for people who have trouble connecting, which is ironic (I guess). To fill the void, he buys a new OS, the advanced artificially intelligent kind that sounds like Scarlett Johansson.

Of course, the OS learns about Phoenix, Phoenix learns about her, and they fall in love. It's kind of cute when he reveals to friends that the girl he's been seeing is an OS - they just kind of take it in stride. And that's the most annoying thing about this movie. Ms. Spenser noted it particularly: this amazing thing is happening: True artificial intelligence, with keen emotional insight and brilliance far surpassing ours, and all he does is make her a girlfriend? And when it all goes south - of course they don't live happily ever after - he doesn't say, "Hey, you're super intelligent. Help me out here."

But no, Johansson, as the OS, just gets emotional and all breath-catchy. Phoenix even calls her on it: Why do you keep sighing? You don't even breathe. If I didn't know better, I'd think she was being emotionally manipulative on purpose. But maybe that's part of the movie's message: Just like LA has become built up with skyscrapers, and men have become dweebs (see Chris Pratt as Phoenix's nice but inane co-worker), women have become manipulative psychos (at least all the women we see in the movie) and the OS is just trying to fit in.

I've seen a lot about the movie's visual style - considering that one actor is only a voice and the other is wearing a heinous mustache, that's important. It was nice to look at, but there were a lot of scenes of cityscapes, water drops, skies, that just went on and on. It really made the movie drag and it wasn't that beautiful.

Really, this was pretty much the old love story: Boy meets computer, boy loses computer. It's well done for what it is, but why shouldn't it be? Hollywood has experience with this. It just doesn't do anything with its amazing premise, which is too bad.

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