Why Her is so confusing and whether or not it’s worth your time.
A review by critic Nick Grisius
The movie Her is full of deep symbolism and thought-provoking comparisons. Unfortunately, the comparisons and symbolism is obscure, which leaves most of the audience confused and frustrated. Much of the symbolism hinges on the fact that Theodore, the protagonist, has a job at a Beautiful Handwritten letters company. At his job, Theodore writes letters for countless loved ones who either cannot find the time to write or simply don’t wish to write themselves.
I believe this is intended to appall the audience. However, I do not think the audience is overly surprised or upset. Because the movie presents the Letter Company as the “norm”, the movie fails to draw any attention to the significance of Theodore’s job. Instead, the audience just sees his job as a part of the futuristic atmosphere. My original perspective was that writing letters for other people seems like an awfully weird way to make a living. However, just like the audience, I began to suppress these feelings because of the movie’s inability to make clear connections between Theodore’s job and Theodore’s relationships.
As I thought harder about the role of Theodore’s job, I began to realize the symbolism that the movie was trying to convey. Just as Theodore’s clients are not truly communicating with the correct person, Theodore is not talking to a person either as he talks to Samantha, an operating system for which Theodore has developed a romantic relationship. This comparison implies that Theodore is just as much of an operating system as Samantha. Therefore, Samantha is replying to Theodore with the same lack of true human emotion Theodore uses to communicate with his clients. When Theodore is seen as an operating system for his clients, the audience is forced to question whether there is any difference between the love one human has for another and the love Theodore has for Samantha. Maybe the most important question this comparison prompts is does it matter that Theodore is only talking to a computer or his clients are only talking to him, and are these unusual relationships still love.
The audience is given further insight when Catherine, Theodore’s ex wife, proclaims Theodore is dating an OS because he “cannot handle real emotion.” This is now the only information the audience has been given about Theodore’s relationship problems with his ex wife. And, it implies that Theodore’s relationship with Samantha is not one of real emotion. This information also makes the audience question if Theodore came about his job because it too is a way for Theodore to deal with emotions that are not his own. Meanwhile, Theodore’s friend from the office constantly commends his letters for their authenticity. A publisher even publishes the letters, claiming they perfectly describe many of the experiences and emotions in every relationship. The audience is now left with two separate ideas of what is real emotion. Because the movie does not sufficiently clarify, all of these conflicting messages culminate in massive confusion over the reality of Theodore and Samantha’s relationship.
Ultimately, the movie was incredibly unsettling because it did not give an answer to many of the questions it posed. As an audience, we always seek a logical ending and circularity at the conclusion of our movie. While the intent of the writer may have been to leave the audience in contemplation at the end of the movie, there needed to be a specific idea or thought to leave the audience with—not multiple ambiguous thoughts all at once. Overall, I would not recommend this movie. There are much shorter and better ways to confuse yourself.
Her. Dir. Spike Jones. Perf. Scarlett Johansson Joaquin Phoenix Amy Adams. Warner Bros., 2013. DVD.