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Media Review: ‘HER’

You could argue “Her” is about technology obsessions. Or you could argue this film is about a bizarre love story. But I argue this film is about humanity, told in an unconventional way.

Spike Jonze’s “Her” is a gorgeous video essay that uses an inhuman method to shed light on life: technology.

Middle-aged Theodore Twombly played by Joaquin Phoenix thinks he’s already felt all of the feelings. Discouraged by a recent separation from his wife, played by Rooney Mara, Twombly is flying under the radar both at work and at home. He looks for temporary happiness by viewing suggestive photos on his cell phone and by playing 3-D video games. Twombly is finished with most kinds of living until Samantha, Scarlett Johanson, a quasi-life operating system, seeps into his slightly-futuristic cache of gadgets.

Samantha does not take the form of a human; rather, she takes the form of a small device and an accompanying bug in Twombly’s ear. “I’m always changing,” she points out, likening herself to a human. She carefully analyzes Twombly and rapidly generates conversations in his ear, knowing exactly how to please him. Twombly begins to feel again.

The film uses the relationship between Twombly and Samantha as a conduit for explaining and exploring life. Subconsciously, Twombly begins to function and feel as a human. Beautifully composed flashbacks of Twombly and his estranged wife play out on the screen. Samantha, who is also learning what it’s like to be a person, provides intuitive thoughts about humanity: “The past is just a story we tell ourselves.”

Despite a seemingly loving relationship, technology finds itself at odds with Twombly. But this doesn’t happen before their relationship pushes Twombly to finally sign divorce paperwork with his now ex-wife and get closer to several real people, especially fellow technology dork Amy, played by Amy Adams, a simple beauty who, too, is learning a tough lesson about living.

In film, technology often finds itself heavily criticized or disparaged. Movies like “I, Robot” warn of technology controlling and destroying our world. “Her” makes comments about humanity’s relationship with gadgetry, but Lee seems to understand the issue is more complicated. Samantha, though flawed, has a firm grasp on living, providing Twombly with viable lessons on human life.

Perhaps “Her” suggests our biggest enemy in failing to live is not technology, but ourselves.

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