Monday, February 27, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #46: "Her" (2013)

Movie Stats:
Released 2013 (USA)
American, in English
Director - Spike Jonze
Stars - Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams

Plot Summary:
Theodore Twombly (Phoenix), a man in the throes of loneliness and depression, falls in love with his computer's artificially intelligent operating system, Samantha (Johansson). Adams co-stars as Theodore’s close friend, Amy.

Lots of blue language; sexy times; brief female nudity (breasts only).

Bad Stuff:
For a film set in the (nearish) future, it sure had some old-fashioned ideas about gender. People repeatedly make a big deal out of the fact that Theodore is sensitive (he’s even called a sissy for admitting that he cries). Amy is a programmer but the game she’s programming is about competing to be a good mom. I found it really off-putting/jarring. I hope we’ll be beyond most of that 50 years from now.

Good Stuff:
I’m always pleasantly surprised when movies depict a male/female friendship without a hint of romance to it. Well done, film.

The acting is phenomenal. Phoenix was particularly impressive. When I think about the fact that he spent most of filming likely talking to himself, and how he was able to effectively emote while doing that, I’m completely blown away.

It’s visually quite beautiful.

The Verdict:
I wasn’t looking forward to this at all. I don’t have anything against Joaquin Phoenix, but I wasn’t convinced that he could carry a film the way he needed to for this. Also, I was skeptical of the concept. Something about the previews I saw made it seem creepy or icky. But I went into it with an open mind, and I found myself quickly charmed. There’s nothing creepy or icky about the central romance. In fact, I thought it was really touching. Both Phoenix and Adams do an amazing job of showing what it’s like to be in a bad place in your life, and also what it’s like to come out of that bad place. I was completely wrong about Phoenix’s ability to carry the film. It’s lovely on so many levels, in a way that moved me to tears more than once. Nearly everything about it is well done: the acting, the cinematography, the special effects, the  soundtrack, and the writing. My quibbles with it - including that it’s rather light on the sci fi front - are minor.

I give it 4.25 stars.


Patricia said...

I'm glad you liked it. Despite my enjoyment of Phoenix's acting ability, I found this movie incredibly dull. I also feel like it was a complete Boy Movie in that the big reveal that guts Phoenix, was kind of a "no duh" moment for me.


I'm not a man, and thus I have not been socialized to believe that every single thing I say is interesting and of importance and should be listened to with full attention, thus I would not have any problem learning that the AI I have been chatting with and falling in love with, is also talking to multiple other people at the same time. It's a super smart AI, not a woman, dammit.

There is a similar kind of reversal in Ex Machina, but one I found much more satisfying.

God, I disliked this movie.

But I'm glad you liked it. Other Joaquin Phoenix performances I love: Garry in _Parenthood_ (when he was still Leaf Phoenix); Freddy Quell in _The Master_; Jimmy Emmett in _To Die For_. The man has always been able to play vulnerable in a convincing way, even as a kid.

balyien said...

Hmm, I think you have an interesting point, but that's not how I interpreted that part of the movie. I think that his character was approaching his relationship with the AI as a committed romantic relationship. Therefore, he expected monogamy. So to me it wasn't, "OMG, I am a man who is very interesting, why is she talking to other people?" but "We were in a committed relationship and she cheated on me." Granted, they never discussed monogamy, and he shouldn't have assumed, but most people assume monogamy over polyamory.

I have to admit that it never occurred to me that this AI that all these people were using was the same AI. I was thinking that each person got their own individual AI, and I feel that's what he thought too. Perhaps both of us were naive! It certainly seems silly to me now that I really think about it, but that's what I thought right up until the reveal.