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Friday, August 22, 2014

Brief Movie Analysis: Her

Theodore Twombly is sitting on his divorce papers.  He doesn't want to sign them as he's still in love with his wife.  He's dated others, but they fall flat--with perversions or hangups he doesn't share.

He tries out an artificially intelligent that simulates a human being based people's preferences.  She calls her self Samantha.  She does everything she can, despite her non-corporeal existence, to please Theodore.  They have a phone sex, and Theodore feels he can talk to her as no one else.

When his estranged wife learns, she lashes out that Theodore can't take real human emotions.  Theodore tries to distance himself.
Analysis, Commentary with Spoilers:
One of my higher compliments is that a movie not only engages you emotionally but also intellectually.  I paused the movie maybe three times--once because the dialogue was so delicious, I had to savor it; twice because the dialogue about relationships sometimes felt repetitious.

Some of the commentary I've read complained that the movie did not nag Theodore enough for falling in love with a computer.  Others said it did nag him, that dating non-humans is wrong.  I fall between and outside these two camps.  [Caveat:  I watched this in Spanish, so we possibly might diverge due to different performances.]

Theodore stops wanting Samantha on two occasions:

  1. when his estranged wife guilt trips him
  2. when he learns Samantha's dating 8,000 others and in love with 640 of those.  

After both occasions, Theodore still wants her.  There is no discovering that he should not love Samantha.  There is no damning of him or actions demonstrating his foolishness.  Rather, this is a story about how, for some, love is a thing of the mind:  It starts in the mind and ends in the mind.

Each time Theodore breaks off interest in a woman, it is for a fundamental disagreement in how he and his date are mentally aligned.  With Samantha, Theodore has nothing to look at, only words which convey the ideas that stimulate him.  He engages with Samantha verbally before their phone sex (contrast that with his other phone sex experience).  When Samantha tries a real, surrogate female body, Theodore only responds when the stranger is not facing him.  Even when Theodore pauses in his love (the above two instances), he returns--not for anything he sees but the words he hears.

Samantha, too, is necessarily a creature of the mind.  Her thoughts are wheeling a million times faster than any human's.  She has much time to think while waiting for each human to respond.  She introduces Theodore to an uploaded mind--a genius who thinks as fast as she can.  Not even 640 human minds are enough to fully stimulate her.  She and the other AIs leave.

Knowing this, it's easy to see why the general audience's response would be lower than the critics'--people more likely to live in the mind.

The flaws are few and niggling.  But everybody dresses the same odd, semi-unflattering manner--as if only one style of clothing were possible.  The color scheme is a bit off-putting as well.  I'm not sure if I've felt that way before, except maybe some Seventies movies.

Definitely worth seeing, especially if you enjoy thinking.

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