Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Being, Nothingness, and HER (Film Review) by Alison Ross

With just four feature films under his belt, it's hard to genuinlely assess Spike Jonze's  impact on modern movies. His first two efforts, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, were smashingly solid, award-winning pieces. His next one, a cinematic rendering of the beloved children's story, Where the Wild Things Are, was visually bold but lacked the pathos needed to submerge viewers in the entrancing elements of the

HER, however, has all the themes and properties that propelled Jonze's breakthrough film, Being John Malcovich:  solitary longing, witty humor tinged with soulful melancholy, discovering self through introverted means, the reign of imaginary worlds.

In the futuristic world of HER, humans' bittersweet preoccupation with our tech-toys is taken to its logical extremes, in which the idea of being married to our computers is no longer just an analogy, it's reality. People are falling in love with their Operating Systems, and the Operating Systems are actually reciprocating! It seems in the near future, Operating Systems have evolved sentience. So not only are they intellectually more capable than we are, but now they are encroaching upon our emotional territory, theretofore a sacrosanct realm, the province of mammals.

It is not clear how this has happened, and if there is any flaw in the movie, it is that: the question of how otherwise stoic Operating Systems became imbued with an emotional sensibility remains unanswered. But I think this is nitpicking. As far as I can see, HER is about as perfect as it gets: flawless acting (Joaquin Phoenix is always a treat, but in HER he melts into his lead role as a timid, hip/geek archetype who becomes besotted with Samantha, his computer's OS), startlingly imaginative storyline, quirky commentary on our burgeoning technocracy, and seductive scenes from a near-future world that lure us into its lair while at the same time implicitly warning us of the pitiful pitfalls of solipsism and alienation from ourselves and others.

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