Mild spoilers below.
When I first saw Spike Jonze’s “Her,” it made me think a lot. It made me think about whether or not Samantha qualifies as a “real” being and a “real” relationship, about whether or not her being “real” even mattered, and about what anal sex would be like if…okay you get it.
But as Molly Lambert described in her piece for Grantland, “Her made me think a lot, but it never made me feel anything.” Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. Her made me feel some things. Like, for instance, I felt a lot of disdain for the main character. Is that not the “feeling” Spike Jonze had in mind when he made the movie? And while we’re on the subject, what exactly was Spike Jonze trying to accomplish with Her?
I found a scene that perfectly sums up my confusion about this movie. A little over a half an hour in, right before Theodore and Samantha have their first true intimate scene together, Theodore is explaining everything he is feeling to Samantha. In reference to his date-gone-wrong with Olivia Wilde’s character, Theodore says, “I wanted somebody to want me to fuck them because maybe that would have filled this tiny little hole in my heart but probably not.”
This 30-something-year-old man utters such an immature and pathetic line that I cannot for the life of me believe that Spike Jonze intended any serious movie-goer to hear it and go “awwwww” and sympathize with the guy. It’s not just that line either. He takes constant passive-aggressive swipes at his ex-wife by telling everyone that he’s “just happy to be with someone excited about life” when talking about Samantha (he even says it right to Catherine’s face). He has clear intimacy issues which he gets called out on by his ex-wife, and is later brought to the forefront when things start going south with Samantha. He idealizes the past. He generally seems to handle relationships with the tact of a 15 year old.
So if Spike Jonze isn’t trying to get me to relate to or feel bad for Theodore, then surely what Her must be is some kind of social commentary. The age of technology. If I look past the pathetic-but-not-terrible protagonist, there must be some riveting debate being presented throughout the film about whether or not technology is helping us become happy, or hurting us. And after watching the movie about two and a half times now, I can safely say that there is…no real attempt at social commentary. Now, it is possible that there is and I’m just missing it. If that’s the case, I’d like someone to make a case for it. But I’m definitely not seeing it.
So, from where I’m sitting, it seems that Her is either two kinds of movie.
It is either a romantic comedy that wants me to pat a 35-year-old manboy on the back for finally growing up, or it’s a social commentary that forgot to provide any commentary. Neither of which is a great option.
I didn’t hate Her. It’s a gorgeous looking movie. Between the Theodore nice-guy-pity-parties, there were some genuinely nice moments. When he questions whether or not he’ll feel anything as strongly as he did before, I think that’s something we can all relate to. At the end of the movie, he finally owns up to the idealizing he unfairly imposed on his ex-wife Catherine and apologizes. But then again, these scenes just serve to confuse me more. Am I supposed to be sympathizing with this guy or not? Because I really can’t bring myself to.
And I know that trying to “figure out” a piece of art is kind of a silly task. But I also think this film sends out very mixed signals when it comes to what angle I’m supposed to approach it from, and it hurts the experience for me. Is it a warts-and-all love story like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,or a “How Not To Treat People” instruction manual like Ruby Sparks? It seems like it tries to hedge between both and ultimately achieves neither.
Does anyone have any insight that could help me out?
Arcade Fire has confirmed a new album for October 29th!