A.I. Intimacy, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 20 2013 @ 5:44pm

Christopher Orr considers Her the best film of the year:

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 [Spike] 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?

Dana Stevens’s take:

Her isn’t, in the end, a political or socio-cultural satire, much less a nostalgic tract about the need to throw away our devices and truly live. It’s a wistful portrait of our current love affair with technology in all its promise and disappointment, a post-human Annie Hall.

Brett McCracken compares the protagonist to the operating system:

Theodore earns a living communicating emotion for a populace presumably deficient in the art. In this world, communication itself has become a necessary nuisance. You need it to live, but it’s devoid of pleasure and avoided whenever possible. Other people write intimate letters for you; your OS writes your e-mails, makes your calls, chooses and buys presents for your goddaughter, and navigates dicey dynamics with divorce lawyers.

Theodore is paid to know people better than they know themselves, to dig into their quirks and nuances to best capture how and what they love. This is also, of course, what Samantha does for Theodore. In this and many other ways she is a mirror for him, a reflektor (to use a neologism from Arcade Fire, who provide the soundtrack for the film and whose latest album is in part about connection in the digital age).

A bit from Angela Watercutter’s review:

Jonze imagines a future where we trust our devices more than we do today — and we trust them a lot already. Think about how many secrets we tell them in the form of sexts and selfies, Snapchats and private e-mails. Increasingly, the love we get day to day comes in form of “hearts” on Instagram and Likes on Facebook. Would it really be so weird if the machines themselves got in on the conversation? They’ve been listening in all along; maybe it’s about time they piped up.

In Her – like our hyper-connected lives today – it’s possible to fall in love with someone you can’t touch, and to feel it every bit as much as you would with someone who’s there in flesh and blood.

Kurt Loder’s bottom line:

The movie has more on its mind than the old question of “What is love?” In a bracingly original way, Jonze suggests that whatever the future of digital evolution might hold in store for human romance, the danger of heartbreak will always remain, along with its attendant torments of desperate yearning and unfocused jealousy. “You helped me to discover my ability to want,” Samantha tells Theodore. Want what, he wonders.

Related Dish on the film here.