Her – a film about a man who falls in love with his operating system.
Starring – Joaquin Phoenix as Sad Hipster, Rooney Mara as Previously Fun Wife, Olivia Wilde as Super Hot But Ultimately Disappointing Date, Scarlett Johansson as The Voice and Amy Adams as The Only Person You Want To Spend Anytime With
Phoenix stars as Theodore in Spike Jonze’s 2013 exploration of relationships in the not too distant future.
Theodore is sad and Theodore is lonely. He seems a nice enough fellow though, that wee smile he manages here and there defo hints of some hidden humour, some past contentment, a love of coffee shops on Sunday mornings and walks in the rain. He even lets a lady finish herself off after a phone sex session takes an unexpectedly bizarre turn which he wasn’t totally into. He just carries right on until she finishes and doesn’t complain once. What a guy!
The place he lives is nice too.
Somewhere between now and then a huge Instagram filter has been placed over the sun so everyone looks warm, but never too hot. But even though everything in Theodore’s world looks nice and sort of instantly nostalgic, he is adrift and disconnected in a world where being hooked up to devices is as reassuringly life preserving as breathing; wittering away at people in a constant stream of advice and pleasantness are the Operating Systems (the “OSs” for people like me who still call everything on their phone “the phone”.).
One day, in a fit of uncharacteristic optimism, Theodore goes out and treats himself to a new OS for his little flippy flappy pocket device. He answers a bunch of questions that the programme uses to create the perfect OS for his needs. He chooses the form (“Choose the form of the destrucTOR! Choose and PERISH!” – sorry, Ghostbusters tangent) of “female” to guide his every waking moment.
What he gets is Scarlett Johanson in his pocket, agreeing with him about everything or suggesting things like adding a bit more salt. Bargain.
Now, these aren’t just any old OSs, they aren’t just going to make your phone stuff more phoney, they are starting to evolve – to emote. Soon Theodore and his OScarlett are out having the kind of daydreamy, whimsical days he could only have dreamt of having with a real life girl.
With what you know of Theodore by this point, mopey sad little Theodore, any self respecting friend would be flinging his little device out the nearest window. Theodore is a year out of a relationship, swithering over signing divorce papers that would forever separate him from Catherine (Rooney Mara). I, personally, would be telling him that spending all day talking to a sexy voiced app that seems to giggle with joy about everything he does, probably wasn’t the best way to integrate back into the world. Theodore’s friends (one of whom is played by Amy Adams, who should really have been given an Oscar for just being a likeable presence in this film) however actively encourage it.
His divorce is happening because Catherine wanted to go out and do stuff with her life, which of course as Hollywood keeps telling us, means women go from being silly, twinkly, fun things who take their tops off all the time with joyous abandon, to rather grumpy, tired people who just aren’t fun anymore.
And so you enter the world of Her -a film, the message of which, I am still struggling to get to.
Obviously, you know before even seeing the film that its entry level theme is the evolution of relationships and emotions. In a world where people’s lives are shrinking further and further down into their screens, what is going to happen to the way we interact and relate to one other in the real world?
But there is other stuff here – ownership for example, is Theodore’s issue that he just wants to own somebody? He won’t give Catherine a divorce – even though she isn’t twee and lovely anymore – because he still “likes being married”. He seems to find this cute and adorable about himself when it is obviously wretched.
And this was my main issue – I hated Theodore.
If it wasn’t enough that he destroys a relationship seemingly because his partner couldn’t give him endless attention, he literally goes into a shop and buys an off the peg companion to be there for his every whim; to spread hot, melting platitudes over him until he says stop (Theodore will never say stop).
BUT I ACTUALLY THINK I WAS MEANT TO LIKE HIM!
I get that this film could be read entirely cynically, that it is a stark look ahead into a world where, try as we might to protect ourselves from real world hurt, the apps on our phones could potentially break our hearts anyway; that it is telling us we should do all we can to NOT become Theodore, but I couldn’t escape the feeling I was meant to be rooting for him when I actually found him a total waste of anyone’s energy.
There are also some truly bizarre and wince-enducing sex scenes in this film which I think I was meant to find moving and ground breaking and not utterly embarrassing and horrifying.
But hey, if you want to watch a film where the ukulele player from the Match.com adverts talks on the phone for 300 hours, then this is for you.