Why Spike Jonze's Her Perfectly Portrays Modern-Day Love

It's not quite 'Romeo and Juliet', but 'Her' beautifully encapsulates the worrying ways of a world increasingly enamoured with technology...
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Nokia Love, Galaxy love, iPhone love, iPad love, iPod love and lots more Apple-related love. Love is all around us nowadays, and this particular type of 21st-century love has given rise to the 21st-century double dates you may have witnessed in coffee shops, bars or Nando’s.

An example: a man and a woman are out together in their local Nando’s (I use this food chain only as an example a lot as this new 21st-century love is serial in Nando’s). They sit opposite each other and order. Physically, the two are out enjoying each other’s company, but really, in there (their heads, that is), it’s them and two miniature screens clutched for dear life in their hands.

Each 21st-Century date is a double date. Poetry, that.

Director Spike Jonze, whose work includes 'Where The Wild Things Are' and 'Being John Malkovich', has shoved this 21st-century adaptation of love into a two-hour movie titled 'Her', and by God hasn’t he done well?

In doing so, Jonze has brought us a new, fresh love story; a story of man and his machine, in which it’s clear that technology, like it does for so many folk nowadays – for all its power and ubiquity – has isolated the main character, Theodore Twombly, who’s played by Joaquin Phoenix.

'Her' transcends a mere critique of the dubious uses of technology to explore the very nature of modern love, identity and consciousness, whilst maintaining the originality and assurance of non-21st-century love. I honestly believe that this is a skill that only Spike Jonze could pull off.

Theodore is an employee of “Beautifully Handwritten Letters Dot Com,” where he serves as a kind of on-line modern day Shakespeare for folk who don’t have the time, effort or ability to compile letters of their own - but, despite Theodore’s ability to convey emotion for others through a written letter, his own personal emotions are somewhat subdued. We discover that this lethargy is at least in part owed to a separation from his wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara).

Theodore’s day-to-day routine is like any other. He works, visits friends, but most of all relies almost completely on technology.
Luckily, as I’m not a fan of this science fiction nonsense, the technology is familiar enough to avoid the prospect of the film being described as a 'sci-fi', but remains different enough to convey the futuristic world that Jonze has created in 'Her'.


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Throughout the film, Theodore checks his e-mails using his voice-recognition earplug ('OS'), a device that is constantly, and snugly, housed in his left ear. The OS doesn’t only organise documents, sort e-mails and other worldly affairs, but also offers an element of companionship.

Of course, what technology giveth, technology also taketh away - and, unable to sleep, Theodore opts to partake in what can only be described as some virtual fucking - a feature of the software that, although unadvertised, you’d admittedly have to give a go. It’s like trying to lick your own penis when you were younger, no one’s proud of it, but we gave it a go.

Theo’s OS is called Samantha, a name she/it gave her/itself, such is the Artificial Intelligence and impressiveness of this software.
The voice of Samantha is that of Scarlett Johannsson, a performance that is certainly of 2014’s more interesting and arguably one of its better turns, non-corporeal though it may be. Voice work has become common among Hollywood stars looking to earn an easy paycheck. But let's not underplay just how well she plays this role - Johannsson’s voice work is accomplished and affecting.

Indeed, she makes Theo believe that these things are happening, with a deft mixture of innocence, vivacity, seductiveness and empathy, all expressed by voice alone. A concentrated and impressive feat of acting, that is often underestimated.

Now who in their right mind is telling me that they wouldn’t have virtual sex with Scarlett Johannsson? The same people telling me they didn’t try to lick their own penis? Come on. We all would - and did.

The affection between Theo and his OS, man and his technology, develops as fast as when Candy Crush came out, you remember, don’t lie. If Candy Crush had a voice, I’m sure there’s many a human that wouldn’t say no to a Candy Crush virtual fuck.

Theo frolics around with Samantha in his front short pocket, an add-on for the OS that looks similar to a red smart-phone to enable Samantha to view the world. You can’t help but think if he wasn’t frolicking around in LA, but Leeds or Bradford, this film would’ve been a lot shorter, as Theo would’ve been kicked in and robbed by now.

Nonetheless, 'Her’s take on technology, its visual consistency and the bold storyline is classic Spike Jonze - the Director setting the film’s tone beautifully. With regard to the machines, there’s no overreaching ‘AI’ or ‘iRobot’ tosh, but just about enough difference to know this is in the future. It’s NOT a sci-fi, remember.

The main plot of the film is the relationship that Theodore and Samantha build, which ultimately ends with Theo falling in love with his OS. As the two experience their ups and downs, the acting throughout the film is simple, precise and affecting.
We, as a modern world, are in danger of becoming the above. Foolishly falling in love with machines, as technology continues to progress and, all the time, we continue to buy into it.

Such is Jonze’s talent and experience as a director, he’s perfectly crammed today’s modern love and what it’s in danger of becoming into a two-hour masterpiece. Every date that we go on, everywhere we go, it’s with our trusty handheld companion. Our reliance on technology is growing each day and, as Jonze has highlighted in 'Her', is in danger of shitting on what once was good ol’ fashioned love.

We have a film that involves a love story that makes us consider the very nature of the emotion, of consciousness and of identity. It offers a story in which machines first possess the intelligence to make us more fully human and then develop the further intelligence, perhaps even the wisdom to leave us completely alone.

“Sometimes I think I’ve felt everything I’m ever gonna feel, and from here on out I’m not going to feel anything new, just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt”

Next time you’re in Nando’s, remember, 21st-Century love doesn’t always work - so why not put down the phone, and live in the moment.

Follow Tayler on Twitter at @TaylerWillson