I’ve been thinking about the new Spike Jonze film Her quite a bit recently. I really enjoyed it when I saw it last week, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. It’s one of those films that sticks with you and grows in your head. The best kind of film, in my opinion.
When I first heard the premise of the movie, it raised some obvious red flags. A guy falls in love with his Siri-like operating system. Oh boy. Assuming the plot wasn’t a joke being spread to obfuscate the real plot, the liklihood of such a film falling flat on its face seemed very high. Hollywood is generally incompetent when it comes to films about technology. And trying to mix emotion with technology sounded like a recipe for a total disaster.
And yet, Her turned out brilliantly.
That’s obviously a testament to Jonze who both wrote and directed the film. I believe it works because he was able to pull off something you rarely see these days in films where technology plays a central role: very little exposition about the technology.
Sure, the audience needs a high level overview of what this new OS is and how it enters Theodore’s (Joaquin Phoenix) life. But we don’t need an explanation of how Samantha (Scarlett Johansson in a seriously brilliant unseen role) works. Instead, Jonze wisely opts to show how Samantha works. She talks to Theodore through an earpiece. She “sees” his world through his awesomely simple flip-smartphone.
By not feeling the need to dive into the backstory of how Samantha was created, Jonze is able to take back that screentime and use it to further the actual story. Too many films these days feel the need to handhold us through some new future technology — even though we all use technology each and everyday that we don’t fully understand the inner-workings of. And more often than not, these explanations are so laughable that they all-but ruin the intended “wow” factor of the new technology.
All of this is to say that I believe Her is one of the best “tech” movies I’ve seen in a long time. It recalls another highly underrated recent film, Robot & Frank. Both of these are great because the technology in the film serves as a catalyst for the underlying humanity of the story. They’re more than just tacked-on plot devices or eye candy.
Her succeeds in painting a future that seems not only realistic, but perhaps inevitable. More importantly, the film is poignant. And it resonates. All of that is pretty incredible when you consider the seemingly preposterous premise.