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Opinion: 'Her' asks audiences what love truly is

Published: Monday, January 13, 2014

Updated: Monday, January 13, 2014 18:01

“Her,” directed by Spike Jonze, is an eccentric and quirky, yet poignant romantic comedy about a lonely futuristic geek, Theodore Twombly, and Samantha, Theodore’s spunky and sultry-voiced artificial intelligent operating system. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore while Samantha is voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

Set in a near-future Los Angeles, this comedy pokes a lot of fun at our technologically dependent society. Though the city is filled with many people out and about, hustling and bustling, it is eerily quiet. Whether on the train or walking on a sidewalk, the people of this futuristic Los Angeles are preoccupied with their cellphones. Groups of friends are not talking to one another as they walk side by side, rather, they are consumed with their own devices as they block themselves out from others.

The film comments on a problem that exists today in our society. It magnifies and characterizes our dependence on technology. In place of human socialization and building relationships, Theodore looks to Samantha for comfort, but by doing so, he further isolates himself and retreats further and further away from others.

Theodore is the character the viewer empathizes with and was recently separated from his wife Catherine, played by Rooney Mara. Lost and insecure, Theodore finds it uncomfortable to connect with others. Instead, the introverted Theodore works as a commissioned writer who creates love letters for others.

Theodore questions his place in the world and believes he finds it with Samantha. The two ponder about life, what constitutes real emotions and feelings and what it means to exist in such a changing and dynamic climate.

However, not everyone in Theodore’s life understands his relationship with Samantha. Many, including his ex-wife Catherine, question this unconventional relationship. Despite these concerns, his disposition and demeanor change, as he grows closer to Samantha. The once miserable, seemingly unemotional Theodore, comes alive with excitement while dating Samantha.

Samantha’s search for a greater comprehension and perspective of the physical world around her is made believable through Scarlett Johansson’s expressive and vibrant voice. Scarlett Johansson did an excellent job in bringing vitality and a sense of curiosity to her character.

At the same time, the smiles, the laughs, the happy times Theodore and Samantha have are almost translucent. Yes, Theodore is happier with Samantha than he was while he was alone, but his relationship with Samantha almost seemed like a cop-out, a substitution for a real human relationship.

Though his message and commentary is sharp, Jonze leaves plenty of room for humor. His spin on a man falling in love with computer left no detail to the imagination — at all. Every aspect of an intimate human-to-human relationship was somehow manifested in this bizarre relationship of a human and an operating system.

From agonizing in Theodore’s pity, to feeling elated at the bright, feel-good moments he and Samantha share and even to squirming at the sheer eccentricity of their relationship, “Her” evokes every emotion.

“Her” will bring viewers to see the importance of never isolating oneself from what they are anxious about and to never hide from what they are uncomfortable with or afraid of. It brings into question just how emotionally dependent on technology our society really is.

 

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