Her: An Intelligent Social Commentary


photo via Warner Bros. Pictures under the Creative Commons license

Billy Ambrose, Staff Writer

I had to see this movie twice before I could fully digest it. It was just that good. With so many perfectly intertwined themes and character developments, it was a lot to think about. I even ended up rethinking the way human society works. Her, written and directed by Spike Jonze (also known for Where the Wild Things Are, Adaptation, and Being John Malkovich) is not only a romantic comedy about a man and his computer; it’s a social commentary that questions the way humans interact with each other.

Let’s begin this review with the biggest concern people seem to have with this movie: Yes, it is a movie about a man falling in love with an artificial intelligence. Most moviegoers I know were turned off by this concept, because who really wants to see a movie where a guy falls in love with Siri? However, there’s more to the idea than the trailers give off. Samantha, the AI (artificial intelligence played by Scarlett Johansson) that Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with, is not a simple computer program. The AI is a consciousness, like a digital human mind, constantly learning and evolving as she explores the vast amount of information we have on the internet. She sounds and acts like a human, even to the point where Theodore notices that she makes breath noises as she talks. The audience begins to view her more as a human without a body than just a phone application, and this makes the movie a lot more interesting.

The plot is relatively simple. Theodore Twombly, a recently-divorced man, buys a new phone OS that advertises as “a consciousness.” He personalizes his AI by answering a few questions, and in a matter of seconds, Samantha’s voice emerges from the screen. When asked why she chose the name Samantha, she simply replies, “Because I liked it.” Over the following months, Theodore gets more and more attached to Samantha, as he teaches her about human life and she scans the infinite spans of the internet for knowledge. Theodore slowly becomes a better man as he discovers what makes a relationship work, and why his last marriage didn’t.

I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it, but it’s one that leaves the viewer with a racing mind and an enlightened feeling. I remember my own experience: once the credits started rolling, there was this awkward silence that fell among the audience. No one knew what to say – we were speechless. I looked over to my friend for some kind of insight to help me process what had just happened on the screen, and all he could manage to say was, “No wait what hang on.”

The movie has the obvious theme of over-dependency on technology. In a modern world where we can’t go five minutes without checking our phones, this movie challenges us to put down our gadgets and enjoy the simple pleasure of human-to-human contact. Even though this is already a good message to have, Her goes even deeper into the ideas of human interactions. As Samantha learns about human customs and culture, she often questions why we do certain things. And after seeing this movie, I could completely agree with her standpoints on certain things. Why do put self-inflicted barriers in our lives when we could just be happy with what we have? Why do we feel the need to act strangely around others, and why do some of us need the assistance of alcohol just to say what’s really on our minds? Why don’t we allow ourselves to feel joy? My mind was buzzing after thinking about all of Samantha’s questions, and I eventually did feel like a better person after considering her ideas. I felt like I actually could allow myself to feel joy. No other movie has ever been able to affect me in the same way that Her did.

Her isn’t for everyone, so be cautious when deciding whether or not to go see it. Some people also just can’t get over the concept of a man loving an AI, so if you’re one of those people, you should definitely skip this one. However, if you’re willing to have your social behaviors challenged and heartstrings tugged, go see Spike Jonze’s Her. This is a movie you don’t want to miss.