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I just saw Spike Jonze’s new film, Her. Having almost a perfect track record (all but Be Kind Rewind, which still wasn’t terrible), Spike gave me nothing but high expectations. I suppose I figured Her would be a blend of Eternal Sunshine, Lost in Translation, all that Spike had done, and, having seen a trailer or two, a hipster mustache.
The movie was more than that.
In effort to not spoil anything, I’ll simply note the things that took me by surprise.
First, I’d guessed that the movie would take place only a touch into our future, meaning perhaps 2018 or 2020. (Side note: woah. That’s only a touch?!) And as such, I figured the only real futuristic part of it would be some different computers or mobile phones, obviously faster and a bit more magical, but all else the same. But as it turned out, a lot of the movie had small predictions about the future: cities were huge and dense, clothing was ever so slightly different (but not like other future movies where people dress like they’re in a cult or 1984), and people’s attitudes about things had changed a bit. Of course that last bit could be the few characters in the film, or even just in my head, but they seemed more tolerant and open. The following is a bold statement, but I’d venture to say that this movie’s depiction of the future is the closest to what I expect, or what I wouldn’t be surprised to see in my lifetime.
The second thing that pleased me about the film was almost on a level above the film. Seeing a movie like Adaptation is always fun because you can see the movie becoming what the screenwriter in the movie wants his own to become. This worked similarly, except on an emotional level. Early and often, the movie questioned what it meant to be in a “real” relationship - must it be between two people? is a relationship with an OS less genuine? - and after having seen the movie, and shed a few tears, I asked myself the same question about movie relationships: can I feel as deeply about a movie in which a guy loves an OS as I can about a movie between two people who kinda remind me of my own life? I remember seeing WALL-E and sort of making fun of myself for having bawled at two robots holding hands. “Never again will I feel this way about an artificially intelligent being,” I scoffed. Whoops.
The last two things that surprised me were more minor, but still should be notes. First, Joaquin Phoenix is an incredible actor. His performance in The Master blew me away, but these two in a row solidify his awesomeness for me. (I couldn’t stand him in most films before those two.) And finally, Pudong, Shanghai, is awesome. And I miss it. I had no idea it was filmed (in large part) there, and it was a blast seeing different places I recognized. (That part was easy, since most of the Pudong shots were from a relatively tiny part of an otherwise huge city.)