2014 Reel theology: Her (Movie #3)

My reactions to Her, with an attempt not to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

The pre-movie expectations

“Siri, where is Her playing?”
“I found three theaters Dave. Which one looks good to you.”
“Which one is nearest?”
“Premiere cinema Rio Rancho?”
“Can I buy tickets.”
“Opening Fandango”
Thank you Siri.”
“It is my pleasure Dave.”

This interchange might give you the idea that I’m a fan of technology and comfortable with artificial intelligence. You would be correct. At the same time, I’ve never been even a little tempted to fall in love with Siri, but the idea as a plot, while not exactly original, was interesting to me. I arrive at the theater, with my oldest daughter, expecting a slightly dark take on this idea, and one which explores ultimately the dangers of technology replacing human interaction. I’m not sure where I got this expectation, but there it is.

The Set Up
As it opens, Theodore is a bored, but skilled writer of other people’s deeply moving letters. In other words, he is making connections for people unable to make their own, I immediately wonder why a world capable of creating artificial intelligence so persuasive as to inspire love and romance, would need people for this job, but the thematic connection is interesting and I let this question pass. I am now anticipating that this man who can create intimacy for others will have some reason he is unable to create his own connections, either a lost love, or something horrendous in his childhood. I’m guessing lost love. I know Amy Adams is in the movie so I’m already guessing she is not the lost love (although she’s yet to appear on screen) but rather the “friend” who should clearly be his love but will play second fiddle to Her. The only question in my mind is whether this movie is going to be romantic comedy at the end, or dark tragedy, I.e. will he find true intimacy with Amy at the end or miss out due to his inability to connect? The tone, more dark dystopia, then light sci if, makes me suspect the latter. These thoughts run through my head before Theodore even leaves his work desk for the day.

I should explain. Sometimes movie plots spin out for me in the first scene like this. Sometimes I’m dead wrong, but often I’m right, I used to whisper to my daughter, wife,or whoever was unfortunate enough to be near me, “oh, I see. I wonder if he’s going to…” And then reveal the rest of the movie in what seemed to be harmless speculation but proves dead right. Oops. It’s a good thing no one was sitting next to me at Sixth Sense, when I said to myself, “wouldn’t it be funny if Bruce Willis was actually dead?” Somehow it doesn’t ruin the movie for me, as I’m never entirely sure. I also haven’t figured out yet if it’s a sign of a good movie, so well crafted that the flow makes sense, or a bad movie mired in predictable formula, telegraphing all the details, or an intuitive leap which is not the fault of the movie at all. Really it’s just something that happens.

My reactions
Without giving away too much, I can say the movie played out pretty much as I thought it would. I didn’t hate this. It made sense and the acting was very good. Having just seen Amy Adams in American Hustle, I am reminded again of her versatility as this is a completely different role for her. For one thing it’s good to see my Enchanted Princess back in a more wholesome clothes and demeanor (meaning necklines that don’t plunge to her belly button).

Joaquin, in comparison is good, but seems, as usual to me, to be Joaquin. (Plus it’s hard for me to to separate this troubled disconnected individual from the stunt/breakdown Joaquin pulled for that bizarre documentary I could only watch twenty minutes of before turning it off.)

The themes explored, the means of exploring them, the search for intimacy are all important and interesting, but at no point does it strike me as originally done as I anticipated. Subtlety is not exactly the strong point of this movie. I suppose when your main love interest is invisible and only present in voice it’s hard not to exposit everything. Two reactions I had worth mentioning only because I found them interesting and you might as well.

The sex
As far as I remember actual sex is nonexistent in the movie. However the amount of “phone sex” even when not over the phone but with a computer voice, is embarrassing and direct. What was interesting in my reaction was this. First I was just embarrassed every time it came on. It bugged me as sex in movies often does, for the way it treats what is to me a precious and intimate thing; but this is where it gets interesting. What bothered me was the extreme intimacy if it. So while I still think it was overdone, I recognize that the movie used sex as a metaphor for true intimacy which is at least better than the more prevalent view of sex as a fun activity between any two bored people. So it crossed lines of what I consider appropriate intimacy to share on the screen but it did so in a way that still valued it’s position as one if intense intimacy, not to be taken lightly. Then again it all involves a non human entity so I could be giving more credit than deserved.

The end
My reaction to the end was interesting because it was apparently unwarranted and yet shared by my daughter. I’m not sure what it means but here’s what happened.

If you want to know nothing about the end stop here. I won’t give away much but you’ve received fair warning.)

At the end of the movie is a nice moment where Theodore and Amy connect. They go up to the roof of their building and enjoy the quiet night. True intimacy. It may be in fact the best and most important moment if the movie, but it was sort of ruined for me by my weird reaction. I kept thinking they were going to hold hands and jump off the building to their deaths! I was so worried they were going to ruin the movie this way that it spoiled the very different feeling they were cultivating. This is odd. Odder still is that my daughter felt exactly the same way.

I am not a pessimistic person by nature. In life I expect things to go well. In life. In movies, particularly Oscar nominated movies, I expect things to crash at the end. I have become so accustomed to Hollywood’s view of “realistic” being dark, that I was waiting for that moment. I also blame the tone of the movie in general. What I don’t know is if they wanted us to be at all uncertain about that. I don’t think we were supposed to feel that anxiety at all, so I don’t blame the writers. I can also blame my own cynicism about Hollywood. Perhaps they are not as prone to dark as I think.

I’m interested though. Anyone else feel this? I would love to know. Post here or on Facebook and let me know if you did or didn’t share this reaction.

My Seven Themes thoughts so far.

Fellowship is a theme in the movie, with Her being prominent among the fellowship, but also being the excuse Theodore uses to avoid the real fellowships in his life.

Redemption is likely the point as Theodore moves from disconnect to tentative attempts to connect at the end. I might see this as a stronger theme had I not been distracted at the end (see above).

Alternate worlds is a definite. Her leaves to go to the alternate world where no human can (yet) go.

Christ figure is relevant and is probably the titular character, as the one who moves between alternate worlds, but can bring no one. It’s also possible to see the movie as about her redemption in which case Theodore becomes the Christ figure who travels between worlds temporarily,

Resurrection is possible here. What do you think?

This movie would have been stronger with a clearer theme of substitutionary love in my opinion. Ultimately no one is really sacrificial or willing to take another’s place. Such a move of intimacy would have signaled clearer redemption for either Her or Theodore or even Amy.

Justice seems absent in any significant way.


Current Ranking in my mind.

American Hustle

I’m still feeling like I’ve yet to see a movie I would have thought was best of the year. Especially in a year so many have said was so good. Nothing has disgusted me yet. Nothing’s been terrible or even mediocre, but truly outstanding? Not yet.

I rate movies according to how much of my money and time they are worth.  My rating for this movie is bolded below.

Worth a full price movie ticket

Worth a matinee viewing.

Worth a dollar movie viewing.

Worth a DVD/itunes rental

Watch it on Netflix

Watch it on TV on a Saturday Afternoon when you’v nothing else to do and you’r sonly laying around anyway.

Not worth your time

Influencing factors in my reactions

I always enjoy movies with my daughter more. We watched a matinee and I didn’t feel cheated. Amy Adams makes any movie better in my mind. I was put off by Joaquin’s mockumentary and the weird publicity stunt he pulled a few years ago. I liked him better before that. The ending of a movie is always important to me, and I messed this one up 🙂

“Siri, are you her?”
“Is that you Joaquin”
(Someone at Apple is fast with updating pop culture references!)

This is just my reaction.  What was yours?

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