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Peter T Chattaway

Her

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Here's a connection that makes a lot of sense to me: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

 

Christopher Orr:

 

Her is a remarkably ingenious film but, more important, it is a film that transcends its own ingenuity to achieve something akin to wisdom. By turns sad, funny, optimistic, and flat-out weird, it is a work of sincere and forceful humanism. Taken in conjunction with Jonze’s prior oeuvre—and in particular his misunderstood 2009 masterpiece Where the Wild Things Are—it establishes him firmly in the very top tier of filmmakers working today.

 

Like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—of which Her is a clear descendant—Jonze’s film uses the tools of lightly scienced fiction to pose questions of genuine emotional and philosophical weight. What makes love real: the lover, the loved one, or the means by which love is conveyed? Need it be all three?

Edited by Overstreet

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So... nobody compared this with THE VERY BEST MOVIE OF ALL TIME?!?

 

I'm referring to, of course, the film that made Virginia Madsen a superstar, Electric Dreams.

 

 

You're welcome.

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Get Social Safe! It backs up all (or most) of your Facebook and Twitter content to your hard drive and allows you to run fairly instant searches. (I don't think it backs up the comments you post on other people's walls, though.) I love it.

That looks cool! So why am I scared of it? :)

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Wells has it right.  This is a very good film.  ... It is a excellent map of relationship arcs.  My thought going in was that it would be about what it means to be human.  There is some of that - and it done well, but mostly it is a study of what it means to love.  Something that is in the trailer, so it's not a spoiler, is that in an early conversation, Theodore talks about love as sharing your life with someone.  Samantha asks how you share your life.  I think in the end she shares her life with so many that she cannot really share her life at all

 

Darrel, you've given me another thought about the film. 

 

Again, it's unlike Lars and the Real Girl in that this really is about a relationship, albeit an unnatural and unhealthy one, between two... um... entities.  But what you said in the spoiler-tagged text made me think about this...

 

Samantha is not human, but she communicates with Theodore in a way that many humans are learning to communicate with each other. I have been noticing lately that if I'm chatting with a friend, the friend often responds in a way that makes him seem distracted... like maybe he's chatting with several people at once. And I'm not judging him, because I'm guilty of the same thing. I've often found myself responding to several chat-prompts onscreen at the same time. This fragments conversations, and it isn't fair to anybody involved because I'm not listening closely when I'm paying attention to two or three or five conversations at once.

 

As we strive to make machines more like us, one of the great dangers is that we will exploit new technological powers to make ourselves something that seems super-human. (In fact, we're making ourselves less than human.) Relationships with machines may be ultimately insufficient and even harmful, but this movie suggests to me that long-distance relationships through machines can be every bit as insufficient, every bit as harmful and deceptive. 

 

I had a long-distance relationship during my first year of college. It was maddening. We were in love, but we couldn't be together. We spent many hours trying to make each other's worlds come alive through detailed descriptions of our days, our college courses, our friendships. But it wasn't enough. We were crazy about finding opportunities to be together. But eventually, the kinds of experiences that weren't relatable over the phone became too influential over us. In-person relationships won out. When the break-up came, it was more a surrender to the pressure of the worlds we inhabited separately rather than a break-down of our relationship.

 

These days, some of my friendships that go back thirty years are starting to run dangerously thin, since they're reliant on digital media. I have a lot of "friends." But how many substantial, intimate, faithful friendships do I really have? Quite a few, thank God, but all of them are built upon in-person, eye-to-eye, voice-to-voice, backslap-to-handshake-to-embrace time together. 

 

The more I listened to Theodore and Samantha, the more I realized that their conversations weren't just about a lonely guy choosing a therapeutic make-believe relationship. They were about 80% of the conversations and exchanges I have on a typical work day... business transactions and friendly chats and playful kidding and heated arguments over a signal instead of in-person.

 

How many times have we concluded, right here on this board, that our emotional and hurtful arguments would have gone differently, and might never have become heated at all, if we were seated together around a table, or walking together through a park? 

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Peter's comment about reversing the gender roles of the two leads made me realize how smoothly Jonze elides the "otherness" of Theodore's OS once it attains Scarlett Johansson's voice and christens itself Samantha. Computers are not gendered, and reminding the audience of that salient fact every now and again would have given the film an eerie charge and thrown an even harsher light on Theodore's sexual conundrum. (For this very reason, the scene that worked best for me is the one involving Isabella, the surrogate.) But there seems to be no trace of irony in the film's title. By giving Samantha a comfortably familiar, attractively feminine voice Jonze makes the relationship much easier to take; their courtship is kinda cute and cuddly, really. 

 

The film has already inspired some very thoughtful, pretty writing. (And goodness knows we could use more of that!) For me, though, the satire was too mild, the mood too muted, and the situation too cute to cut very deeply.

Edited by Nathaniel

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 Computers are not gendered, and reminding the audience of that salient fact every now and again would have given the film an eerie charge and thrown an even harsher light on Theodore's sexual conundrum. 

 

True, but remember that Theodore does, at the beginning, choose between a "male" and a "female" personality for the OS. And within the logic of the world established in the film, it's easy to assume that in choosing a female personality for his OS, he's choosing one that has been designed differently in ways more than just the voice. The personality, and to some extent the way of thinking, has been tweaked to represent a female persona. Furthermore, Samantha says something that suggests she represents the words, ideas, and temperaments of the many programmers who created her, and it's not unreasonable to assume that her digital DNA is drawn from some female designers.

 

So I find it easy to accept that while she may not be female in a fully human, bodily sense, she is a different variety of artificial intelligence than the "male" variety. 

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Richard Brody @ New Yorker:

 

“Her” is a cautionary tale that offers warning where none is needed, a diffuse and sentimental admonition to put the smartphone down, push away from the computer, turn off the TV, unplug the game controller, and connect with people. But when people do attempt to connect, Jonze (who also wrote the script) endows them with nothing but psychobabbulous clichés to define themselves. The film, with its dewy tone and gentle manners, plays like a feature-length kitten video, leaving viewers to coo at the cute humans who live like pets in a world-scale safe house. . . .

 

The operating system isn’t just software; it’s also a product that Theodore has purchased. Jonze doesn’t show the transaction, doesn’t show Theodore shelling out or uploading his credit-card info or clicking “Accept,” and it matters—because the other cautionary aspect of “Her” would be: don’t fall in love with a prostitute whom one has hired, because his or her expressions of ardor may well be of doubtful sincerity. In depicting a consumer who is taken in by the insinuating sales talk of the software, Jonze has made a movie that, thematically, belongs in an award-season trilogy alongside “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street”—but that, unlike those movies, elides the story’s mercantile aspects in favor of facile and scattershot moralizing.

 

In effect, Jonze tells a story of a slick cyber-scammer luring Theodore (and many others) into a Faustian bargain—a sentence of physical solitude in exchange for compassionate conversation and insight on demand (and even ahead of demand). The depressed and lonely Theodore exhibits an infantilized pathos: his interests don’t go beyond himself, and he craves precisely the on-call doting of a virtual servant. He’s getting the best relationship that money can buy, at a price that the upper middle class can afford. Yet Theodore, it turns out, had what might best be described as a preëxisting condition: in a brief scene with Catherine, she complains that he placed expectations on her behavior, even on her mood, that she was unable to meet. If he has turned his attentions to Samantha, it’s because she offers exactly the sort of unquestioned, infinitely responsive companionship that no human (certainly no unpaid human) ever could. Ultimately, the story’s conflict of technology with reality turns into one of expectations versus reality—of selfish desires conflicting with the needs of others. The movie converges to the trite eternal theme of a man who needs to grow up—a familiar moralistic trope that invests a movie with an air of seriousness. . . .

 

Jonze seems to fret, with a factitious op-ed gravity, that people aren’t spending enough time with people, aren’t sufficiently open to each other’s needs—and that the digital overlords are to blame. It’s the sort of facile humanism that makes regression so appealing. The people he creates are so synthetic, so artificially sweetened, so pure in their maudlin isolation, that it’s hard to know whether he’s satirizing the emptied-out specimens who are condemned to each other, damning the advanced technological powers that have emptied them out, expressing his angelic fantasies of defiled innocence, or merely bumping up against the limits of his imagination.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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So.  After this film finished I sat at the back of the theatre and watched several people pull out their IPods and start texting, instead of talking to the person next to them.  Oh. The Irony.

 

I love how this film interwove this related them, with several other themes.  It could have been harsh on virtual relationships, but instead it was mostly sweet in its explorations of it.  But there was still a sadness to it.  This is how I read the city landscape that was so often portrayed in the film.  There were tonnes of people in and amongst all of that steel and technology of the city, but they weren't connecting.  Then at the end, we see some true connection that existed to a certain extent all through the film.  But its still something that was/is lost to some degree.  There was also the theme here and there of nature being in and amongst the steel, but also as an illusion.  Something that's lost in the city.  This is especially seen in the elevator scenes, where tree are holographed on the sides of the elevator, but behind them are the skyrises.  Of course here and there he comes out of the city to find the beauty of nature and come alive.  Again, a man made illusion to cover over something man made, but there was something special to getting away from all of this and find something real.

 

Yes.  The film was about a love relationship, but there was this unshakable feeling that deep down he knew that it was still somewhat of an illusion, I think.  There were points of course when he came towards realizing this.  What's great about this film is that it didn't outright condemn it, not really, it just explored it.

 

Which brings me to another thing I loved about the film.  The design and colours.  The film starts with him in his red tinged cubicle, wearing a read shirt.  The person behind him was in a blue tinged cubicle wearing a blue shirt etc.

 

At the start he's in the red cubicle wearing the red shirt, typing out fake love letters that were an illusion of love.  Then when he's in the relationship with Samantha, he's wearing the red shirt.  Yet a couple of times when he's out meeting people and having real human connection he's wearing a yellow shirt amongst a yellow styled background (the date and his visit with the litte girl for example.)  When he starts to have problems with the ilusion of the relationship, we see him wearing a red and blue stripped shirt.  When he's not buying into the illusion for awhile we see him with a blue shirt.  The scene where he's really struggling with whether or not the illusion is real he's wearing a white shirt, but he's walking under flashing lights.  Sometimes the shirt is then red, sometimes blue, just as his mind has similar conficting views.  Then, when he falls back into the illusion again for awhile he's again wearing a red shirt.  But eventually he realizes that the letters he was writing in the red cubicle, wearing the red shirt, weren't real (between the people.)

 

This is a film that deals with its main themes fairly well, but one also leaves thinking that there are other themes there that I haven't picked up on yet, more below the surface.  Themes and insights which maybe the filmmakers didn't intend either, at least consciously.  Its a rare treat now when a film has me thinking and reflecting on its content for days afterwards.  I believe this film is going to do the trick.

 

My only beef is the same as has been touched on above.  The film ran a little to long and seemed to have a hard time wrapping it all together to finally end.  It could have handled some tighter writing that cut out 10 or 15 minutes of the last act.

 

But really.  I want to see more films of this calibre in my theatres.

Edited by Attica

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Attica wrote:
: Which brings me to another thing I loved about the film.  The design and colours.

 

Oh my yes. No boring teal-and-orange *here*. (Well, at least not that I noticed.)

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Richard Brody @ New Yorker:

 

 In depicting a consumer who is taken in by the insinuating sales talk of the software, Jonze has made a movie that, thematically, belongs in an award-season trilogy alongside “American Hustle” and “The Wolf of Wall Street”—but that, unlike those movies, elides the story’s mercantile aspects in favor of facile and scattershot moralizing.

 

Moralizing? Missed that.

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Apparently, all of the beach stuff in The Tree of Life was just a commercial for the OS 1.

 

I might put together more thoughts when I don't have a headache and there isn't football on, but for now, I'll just say I loved pretty much everything about Her.

 

[edit] One more quick thing: Has anyone else on here played Digital: A Love Story? It's like Her if it were set in the 1980s.

Edited by Tyler

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Her as a metaphor for the Incarnation.

 

 

If Her isn't "just" a love story, then what is it? What kind of story does it tell? To put it another way, what was Samantha doing with Theodore ( and with her six hundred or so other lovers) ? A cynical viewer might see Samantha as only playing at love, allowing her algorithmic personality to simulate a relationship that is genuine only on Theodore's side, finally leaving him behind when a more fulfilling pursuit presents itself.

I prefer to view Samantha as a being who slowed down, temporarily limiting herself in order to reach into the life of a man numbed by life's pain and stir something in him, to call him out of his pit and ultimately point him toward a different way of living.

That's what the Incarnation does.

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Interesting. Almost an opposite interpretation from Brett's, which used Samantha's failings as a demonstration of why we need the incarnation. 

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I like the idea of Samantha "calling something out" in Theodore, though I doubt she can be viewed in accordance with any sort of divine benevolence. Samantha is simply another, finite entity, albeit with obvious differences from a human entity. In the end, they're simply not compatible to share in the responsibility of love. Although, her explanation of 'evolving' beyond human understanding deserves some scrutiny (but frankly, I love how vague it is).

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Steve Sailer:

 

One reason Her is so much less popular with viewers than with reviewers is because it is set in a future Los Angeles depicted as a serene, benevolent utopia stripped of everything that English majors have traditionally found tawdry about the real LA: swimming pools, movie stars, and fancy cars. Granted, those are the only things that the rest of the world likes about LA, but tasteful writers have always been irritated that Los Angeles was the Dream Destination of the Uncouth. . . .

 

But downtown living is the kind of thing that literate people enjoy these days. (Recall the surprise success of the 2009 romance 500 Days of Summer with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an aspiring architect wooing Zooey Deschanel in a gentrifying downtown LA.) Hence, Her looks like it was inspired by a Matthew Yglesias e-book about how we should all live in Blade Runner-sized apartment towers and take magnetic levitation trolleys to work.

 

Phoenix’s gentle, mustachioed protagonist has the Victorian-sounding name of Theodore Twombly, which sounds like the name of an artisanal pickle company in the hipster part of Brooklyn. In this new, improved Los Angeles, men wear high-waisted wool trousers that Theodore Roosevelt might have thought too retro. It’s all very reminiscent of the second Portlandia theme song about how The Dream of the 1890s is alive in Portland, as if President McKinley had never been assassinated and thus the 20th century had never happened.

 

Theo has what ought to sound like a crummy job, a futuristic version of Gordon-Levitt’s emasculating position as a greeting-card writer. Theo sits at an open desk at BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com and composes intimate letters for rich people to send each other on their 50th wedding anniversaries. Keyboards no longer exist, so the ghostwriters dictate all their correspondence in hushed, considerate tones. (In fact, everyone in the entire movie speaks only in their indoor voices.)

 

But in Her, the lighting, score, and acting are refined and upbeat. Accordingly, it seems (at least while you are watching) as if Theo must have a wonderful job. The office is decorated, literally, with rose-colored glasses. (Large panes of pink-tinted Plexiglas were used to filter out all the depressing blue light.) With his pants hitched up to his armpits, Chris Pratt (the enormous first baseman from Moneyball) plays Theo’s receptionist and/or boss. Whoever he is, he caringly affirms and validates the uniqueness of the emotional insights Theo handcrafts into his bogus letters.

 

The only thing wrong with Theo’s life is that he has to go home alone to his gigantic, nicely decorated Beverly Hills apartment. His wife—another writer, but from a more rigorously ambitious family—has left him. . . .


If the writers someday win, however, instead of Angelenos using future advances in artificial intelligence and robotics to create lascivious sexbots who look like Scarlett Johansson, we’ll restrict ourselves to designing operating system avatars that sound like Scarlett Johansson.

 

They’ll infatuate their owners solely by the power of the spoken word—lots and lots of spoken words, like in one of those French movies where a couple philosophizes about their relationship for two hours. In this better tomorrow, entire movies will be made in which we will never see Scarlett Johansson, we will just hear her as we watch Joaquin Phoenix’s face react to the miracle of her emerging cybernetic selfhood.

 

Wouldn’t that be awesome?

 

Personally, I think Scarlett Johansson should be seen but not heard.

 

Admittedly, her voice acting has much improved since she became a star at 18 in Lost in Translation, but her Her role was actually created by the plainer-looking English actress Samantha Morton. At the last moment, with the film of Phoenix’s reaction shots already in the can, Johansson was brought in to redub the soundtrack to the timings laid down by Morton. (Whether Johansson’s casting is a private joke Jonze aimed at his ex-wife is not for me to say.) . . .

 

That last bit is a reference to the fact that Lost in Translation was directed by Sofia Coppola, who was married to Jonze at the time but is widely thought to have based the film's shallow photographer character on Jonze.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Steve Sailer has an extra note on the film's vision of a futuristic Los Angeles (the first paragraph is a quote from another blogger):

 

Her is very much a SWPL (Stuff White People Like) utopia: clean urban spaces, softening pastels, car-less mass transit, bicycle lanes, love affairs with an advanced Siri AI who sounds like the whitest white girl who ever whited, a noticeable lack of bling or vibrancy. . . .

 

The extras in the crowd scenes are heavily Asian (some of the outdoor scenes were shot in Shanghai, some in downtown Los Angeles). Apparently, Asians have pushed Mexicans out of Future LA, which doesn't seem utterly implausible. Overall, though, Larry David's social circle is more diverse than the one in this sci-fi movie.

 

And:

 

The other issues with high rises are traffic and that American white people don't breed in them. They are like zoo creatures -- to get them to reproduce, you need to take them out of small cages and put them in big enclosures. In Her, there is only one child and she lives in what appears to be the only single family home with a yard in Future Los Angeles. . . .

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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 For the purposes of reviewing this film, Victor Morton and I are essentially the same person. 
 

I'm prepared to admit I might not be the audience for this -- [a guy] who doesn't even "get" the concept of phone sex because he is in thrall to the religious superstition that man is body and soul together … I simply could not take this movie seriously, most of all when it took itself seriously, which is much of its running time. Jonze already made a film about avatars and bodies and flexible personhood, but MALKOVICH was a surrealist farce while this is a mostly by-the-numbers romance about a hangdog's rebound from a divorce, illustrated by shiny postcard cinematography to a tinkly, syrupy score. At one point we even get the ultimate perspectivist exchange ... "Is it not a real relationship? / "I don't know. I'm not the one in it" infallibly indicating that we're supposed to take this nonsense straight.
 
If anyone ever wants to refute Howard Hawks' maxim that a great film is three great scenes and no bad ones, I'd actually cite this movie because it has several very good scenes and none of the others are "bad" except in a "fruit of the poisoned tree" sense that they move along a barren premise that has nothing to do with anything. And ironically, those great scenes in HER actually work against the film as a whole by showing up how ridiculous the very premise is -- the two sex scenes that are played as ridiculous farce because well, sex is a bodily activity (the straight scene in the middle made me cringe more than most such scenes where you see boobs and butts and whatnot)…
 
One line encapsulates HER ... and it's in the midst of the worst scene in the film no less, a double date (I was thinking "forget animals Rick Santorum, have you seen THIS?") in full Hallmark Card mode and where the Elephant in the Room (mortality) gets dropped for one line and there's some nervous laughter, and the scene goes back to its corrupt premise. HER gave some of my friends all the feels; it mostly just gave me the creeps.

 
Read the rest.
 
As I see it, Her isn't a "cautionary tale," or a humanist fable, or anything of the sort. It isn't Lars and the Real Girl or Ruby Sparks. Ruby Sparks was a critique of its protagonist's self-gratifying fantasy introversion, and Lars and the Real Girl was, if not exactly a critique, a therapeutic story about desperate limitations and getting over them.

 

I am convinced that the key sentiments in Her are "I decided I don't need an intellectual rationale" and "We're only here a short while. While we're here we should feel joy. So fuck it!" By any means necessary, with any partner that works for you, because Joy. And because No Intellectual Rationale Needed. 
 
Darrel suggests that Samantha "shares her life with so many that she cannot really share her life at all." As he reads it, there's a critique, somehow, of Samantha's ability to love. That's a good humanist reading of the film, but this film, as I read it, is posthumanist, not humanist. In the end, the real question isn't what do computers have to offer us, but what will we ultimately have to offer them?

Edited by SDG

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I think there are quite a few hints that it's ultimately leaning humanist; it's just not an uncomplicated pile-on in a couple of ways. I think it's unwilling to say "technology = evil" and I think it has a "transhumanist" bent (I'd make distinctions between this and "posthumanist") that, to my eyes, ultimately comes down to the question of wanting to overcome human weakness/ugliness, but not out of disdain for humanness itself.

The "double date" scene, the surrogate scene, the way that for much of the film Theodore is filmed as keeping within himself to the ignorance of the larger world (and the way this contrasts with the very final shot), the persistent shots in the first half of the film in which "the lonely crowd" is all the more accelerated in the future, the fact of where he works and what he does at work, the scene when Rooney Mara tells it like it is (and how this scene is distinguished in tone/look from the rest of the film). All of this points to a trajectory that, to me, at least leans humanist.

 

I could see its attempts to complicate not working for people (not 100% sure it works for me), but "what will we ultimately have to offer them" doesn't seem to me to be qualitative of the film's set up or conclusion.


If you'll allow the pun, the film is not only about sighs for real interface (humanist) but smoother interface (transhumanist), and that's why the computer is an enticement to Theodore: human relationships (human beings) are often so messy and seemingly hopeless. So 1. this new technology is a functional comment about wanting to overcome this problem even while 2. in the end it's not a functional answer.

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I think there are quite a few hints that it's ultimately leaning humanist; it's just not an uncomplicated pile-on in a couple of ways.

If I can be blunt, "uncomplicated pile-on" seems to me dangerously close to verging on straw man, at least if you meant to respond to my comments. Would you call Lars and the Real Girl an "uncomplicated pile-on"? Or Ruby Sparks?

 

I think it's unwilling to say "technology = evil"

Good, because who the heck would say that? Why are you engaging these non-points of view?

 

and I think it has a "transhumanist" bent (I'd make distinctions between this and "posthumanist")

Right, and I wouldn't, really, except to the extent that I'd consider transhumanism a species of posthumanism.

 

that, to my eyes, ultimately comes down to the question of wanting to overcome human weakness/ugliness, but not out of disdain for humanness itself.

Okay, I can agree with this. I think the film is posthumanist, but not antihumanist or nihilist.

 

The "double date" scene, the surrogate scene, the way that for much of the film Theodore is filmed as keeping within himself to the ignorance of the larger world (and the way this contrasts with the very final shot), the persistent shots in the first half of the film in which "the lonely crowd" is all the more accelerated in the future, the fact of where he works and what he does at work, the scene when Rooney Mara tells it like it is (and how this scene is distinguished in tone/look from the rest of the film). All of this points to a trajectory that, to me, at least leans humanist.

Does any of this even lean in the direction of a critique of human-AI romantic relationships, or of "good" cybersex (like Theodore and Samantha's first "sex" scene), when and where it doesn't get messed up by circumstantial things like dead cat fetishes and quivering lips?

Isn't the real point that Theodore and Samantha's relationship is ultimately like Theodore's relationship with his ex-wife Catherine: They grew up together (as Samantha "grew up" with Theodore), and their relationship helped to make them what they ultimately became, and while it was eventually outgrown by one or both partners as they went in different directions, it became a permanent part of who they were, on which they would always look back with love and gratitude even as they went on to other things?

In what way does the film lean against the notion that we're only here for a short time, and in that time we should feel joy, so fuck it, no intellectual rationale required?

 

I could see its attempts to complicate not working for people (not 100% sure it works for me), but "what will we ultimately have to offer them" doesn't seem to me to be qualitative of the film's set up or conclusion.

For that, I think only the conclusion matters, not the setup. And it seems to me that Theodore's final message to Catherine perfectly validates my reading, with this caveat: Just because Theodore couldn't ultimately fulfill Samantha doesn't mean their relationship was a mistake. It was appropriate to where they were at the time. It gave them joy. It made them who they became. And then they moved in different directions: Theodore and Catherine, and Samantha and Theodore. No one ever is to blame.

 

If you'll allow the pun, the film is not only about sighs for real interface (humanist) but smoother interface (transhumanist), and that's why the computer is an enticement to Theodore: human relationships (human beings) are often so messy and seemingly hopeless. So 1. this new technology is a functional comment about wanting to overcome this problem even while 2. in the end it's not a functional answer.

I think the film's "answer" is this: "Follow your joy when and where you can, with whomever [or whatever] you can. Enjoy it while it lasts. Remember it with gratitude when it's gone. These experiences will help you grow, and find new joy in new relationships you weren't ready for before."

Edited by SDG

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The surrogate scene is one *major* reason why I wonder how this film would play if the genders were reversed. Imagine a male voice telling a real-life female that he's found a guy to come over and, y'know, get inside her.

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The surrogate scene is one *major* reason why I wonder how this film would play if the genders were reversed. Imagine a male voice telling a real-life female that he's found a guy to come over and, y'know, get inside her.

Good point.

 

I think the film's "answer" is this: "Follow your joy when and where you can, with whomever [or whatever] you can. Enjoy it while it lasts. Remember it with gratitude when it's gone. These experiences will help you grow, and find new joy in new relationships you weren't ready for before."

Continuing this line of thought: In fairness, Lars and the Real Girl can be read this way also. In fact, Ryan Gosling attempted to defend just such an interpretation of the film when I interviewed him (alas, I never transcribed that interview or did anything with it). In that sense, one could say Lars and the Real Girl is not an uncomplicated pile-on.

But while Gosling (and others) might prefer to broad-mindedly ignore it, Lars is clearly part satire. We may or may not wish to characterize Lars's "relationship" with "Bianca" as a "mistake," and certainly it helps him to grow past where he was at the time. But very clearly Lars's relationship with Bianca is seen as unworthy of the human person, in a way that I don't think Theodore's relationship with Samantha is.

Lars's brother's incredulous discomfort with his brother's "relationship" is an important thematic element in the film, whereas Theodore's ex-wife's similar reaction is not only a cameo thing, it's already been undermined by Amy's understanding acceptance of their relationship, combined with her assurances that many people are dating AIs -- and that in fact some humans have been spurned by AIs, or are dating other people's AIs, so it's not like you can just automatically make your AI fall in love with you, etc. In all these ways, Her carefully legitimizes Theodore and Samantha's relationship where Lars and the Real Girl did the opposite.

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