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Now Showing at the Monmouth Cinema Club: Her

WEST LONG BRANCH, NJ – Films that communicate the glorious excitement and disenchanting sadness of love are a rarity; yet in Spike Jonze’s Her we are

Photo from moviepilot.com
Photo from moviepilot.com

treated with a film that looks squarely at the heart of modern relationships and does not turn away. It is a film that does not give you the conclusive resolution that you want, but it imparts an honest insight into the way modern relationships come together, develop, and inevitably break apart. The result of the experience is more gratifying this way. What makes it all the more enjoyable is the relationship in question is  between a human and a computer.
Her is the story of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), an alienated and lonely man who went through a traumatic divorce with his wife. He lives in an empty apartment and writes heartfelt card messages to other people as a career. Eventually, he orders an operating system with artificial intelligence, wanting a female voice to be attached to it. She comes alive, naming herself Samantha.
What follows is a whimsical, harrowing, funny and at once futuristic yet all too familiar tale of “love in the modern world”. She is fascinated with everything that surrounds her; knowledge, the physical environment, and human emotion, especially that of Theodore. His feelings flower from initial surprise, to enchantment with her desire for sentience, and then love as they understand that they play a role of emotional support for one another in all times of need.
This is a film full of unconventional ideas and twists on conventional emotions. The most powerful aspect of the film, however, is the question that Jonze poses in regards to love in today’s world of technology and social media. Even more interesting is the fact that Her doesn’t go out of its way to answer these questions but chooses to explore them, imparting advice and insight into them, rather than providing conclusive answers.
Photo from turntherightcorner.com
Photo from turntherightcorner.com

Theodore, for instance, is a man who is afraid to commit to relationships. He can’t let go of his former wife, he can’t get involved with a new girl who he only wants to sleep with, and he can’t connect romantically with his old college sweetheart, who remains just out of reach. Yet, for him, Samantha is the ultimate solution to his loneliness. He feels that, after his divorce with his wife, he can’t or does not want to deal with real human emotion. Seeing as how Samantha isn’t real…
This seems to correspond with a popular movement in today’s relationships of people who hold hands and kiss yet refuse to put labels on the type of relationship they have. It is in this specific communicative frame that Jonze constantly asks and re-asks his questions. Theodore embodies that sentiment and his actions throughout the beginning of the film are representative of this refusal to commit. By the end of the film, Theodore understands the importance of real human interaction, but comes to this understanding in a way that defies the conventions of modern romantic comedy/dramas.
Yet, to restrict Her to a romantic comedy-drama with a sci-fi tinge limits the possibilities the film explores. It is funny but not overbearingly so. It is dramatic but never sinks into the tear soaked melodrama that screams of sloppy writing and dishonest emotion. It has many crowd pleasing moments in vulgar humor and “meet-cute” romantic entanglements, but it carries out these conventions in its own way.
This is one of the best movies of 2013 and received five Academy Awards nominations. It feels so fresh and young and is stuffed with emotions and ideas. Her looks beautiful, and is. Can modern filmmaking achieve any more praise?