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Posted by martinteller on January 14, 2014

I try to be neither a reviewer who hops on a bandwagon nor one who goes against the grain… that is, I try to be true to my own heartfelt impressions without worrying about how it compares to the consensus of critical opinion.  But when a film gets such overwhelmingly effusive praise as this, it causes me to second-guess (and third-guess) my opinion.  Am I having a knee-jerk reaction in an attempt — perhaps even subconsciously — to separate myself from the herd?  Or did I miss something, was I not paying enough attention?

It’s certainly possible that I missed something in the case of Her.  I got a bit hung up on the premise, which is unlike me.  I can usually suspend my disbelief well enough to go along with just about anything.  But here I found myself questioning the technical details a lot.  I claim no ability to see the future, but the world presented here appears to be — in most aspects — maybe 2 or 3 decades out from where we are now.  And I just don’t see the operating system that spawns “Samantha” as being technologically feasible in that time.  Even if it is, what is this world where there appear to be no economic issues, where a guy can have a career writing a handful of personalized letters a day and still afford a lavish apartment in Los Angeles?  How much can that job possibly pay?  And if Samantha is so advanced, why wouldn’t she be better at letting Theodore know that she’s updating herself?  And what are the legal implications of publishing a book of Theodore’s letters… did the original recipients know they were receiving someone else’s writing?

Nitpicking, I admit.  I’m sure that people have come up with answers to all of these, and that I’m not supposed to be caring about the details this much to begin with.  And for the most part I thought this was an excellent movie.  The music is fantastic, the visuals are nicely composed and lush with detail.  There’s imagination and wit and heart.  The dialogue is well-written and delivered beautifully by Johansson and Phoenix (who I’m warming up to a lot since The Master, along with Amy Adams).  It is honest about relationships and loneliness, and it comments well on the use of technology in our personal lives without being preachy or didactic.  It is a good movie.

But for me at least, it wasn’t a great movie.  I didn’t feel it was saying anything all that fresh about relationships.  Maybe that’s because I’ve done a lot of soul-searching about relationships myself, and have watched a ton of Bergman and a fair amount of Rohmer, too.  And maybe the fact that I got hung up on the technological details is an indication that the primary content wasn’t exceptionally compelling to me.  And I was unsatisfied with how it explained/explored/justified the technology.  I wanted to see more about the implications of that, and I wanted more about how Theodore’s attraction to Samantha was due to his unwillingness to take risks in a relationship.  Maybe some will feel that was covered well enough… to me, it was one of the most interesting facets of the story and could have been addressed in greater depth and detail.

Ultimately what makes this film (very) good but not great to me is that I have no particular desire to see it again.  This isn’t an essential criterion for all great movies, but for one as easy to watch as this, it should be.  But even though my feelings aren’t as enthusiastic as many others out there, I still thought it was entertaining, presented beautifully and certainly heaps more thoughtful than the standard Hollywood romance fare.  Rating: Very Good (81)


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