Elwood Cinemas Movie Maniac Review: HER

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Our resident Movie Maniac Joe Mazzola has another great review for all our loyal Elwood Cinemas customers! Please check it out!

Her is the story of how an introverted and depressed man develops an intimate relationship with his computer’s new operating system, an artificial intelligence called OS1. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a somber and reclusive man. He has spent the last year living a lonely life, trudging along at his job where he writes personalized love letters for clients who have trouble expressing their emotions, all the while avoiding the finalization of his divorce with his childhood sweetheart, Catherine (Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

When he one day decides to purchase a new software program that boasts an artificial intelligence, he soon discovers that the sentient life has the capacity to evolve and develop psychologically. It has its own personality, opinions, curiosity, and emotions, along with a self-image. While Theodore sets the preference to be a female identity, she makes her first independent decision by naming herself Samantha. As she gives insight to his conflicts, Theodore in turn conveys what it’s like to be human, consequentially leading to her affection and personal development. Voiced by Scarlett Johansson (Captain America: Winter Soldier), Samantha’s cognition continues to grow through her interactions with Theodore. The two soon become entranced by one another and develop an intimacy as they pursue happiness and marvel at the wonders of life with their newfound perspectives.

When I initially saw a preview for Her, I’ll admit that, like most, I had my doubts. How could a story taking itself seriously revolve around a relationship with a computer? Are we as humans becoming disconnected from one another? Is this a reality to idealize and be content with? Despite my presumptions, I can gladly say that a superficial glance at this film would not do it justice, which has seemingly become a widely accepted opinion, judging by all of the prestige and nominations it has been receiving this awards season. Before reading on it’s also necessary to mention that Her received an R-Rating for the vulgarity, sexual content, and explicit nature depicted in the film.

From the director of Bad Grandpa and Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze has crafted a remarkably original movie. The Cyber-Romance exemplifies how the appropriate editing, casting, music, and seemingly tangible emotions portrayed on-screen can lead a film to be considered a piece of art. As scenes of Theodore’s romantic past are spliced in amongst his current events and beautiful score by the Arcade Fire, the cinematography is seemingly flawless. In the semi-futuristic setting of Los Angeles, the director took some creative liberties with how post-modern life may evolve within the next decade or so. Technology has become even more immersive and implemented into daily life, seen here in several scenarios, such as the holographic display of a videogame that envelopes a living room and even something as simple as creating the illusion of ascending a forest as you ride up an elevator. While many of the ideas are clearly taken from much of what we currently interact with in daily life, it isn’t a stretch to say that the ideas may even contribute to the reciprocal relationship of technology inspiring art, and art consequentially innovating technology.

What also surprised me was how much this film contributes to science fiction. The premise of artificial life is too often cast into a thriller or action genre where the cybernetic intelligence becomes aware of itself and seeks to destroy its human creators. Here, those apocalyptic scenarios are swept under the rug to present a new spin on the premise of technological advancement; one that promotes compassion, the necessity of sociability, and even philosophical insight into life’s bigger questions.

Love, loss, and the ability to move forward are the central themes to Her, and it’s a unique tale layered with spirit and inner growth as we witness a melancholy protagonist rediscover passion and positivity in his life. Hopefully most audiences will appreciate the reimagining of what it means to have a relationship as it challenges our preconceptions.

4/4 Stars

About the Author:  Joe is an avid yet amateur film critic. Having been with the company for several years, he spent his college career away each semester at the University at Albany, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree. His passion for the film industry and the perpetually growing movie culture led him to gravitate back home during the time off and continually work for the independent and communally driven Elwood Cinemas, a staple of his hometown. Approaching each film with an unbiased perspective, most of Joe’s analysis is derived in accordance with what the movie strives to achieve.

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