Spike Jonze doesn't waste any time introducing us to the technology at the center of Her. "An operating system that can mimic human sentience?" a dangerously lonely Joaquin Phoenix wonders after catching glimpse of an ad in a transit station. "Don't mind if I do!" (He doesn't actually say that, don't worry.) But by the time we're meant to believe that such a world can seamlessly integrate characters like Scarlett Johansson's automated voice Samantha into the lives of living, breathing men and women like Phoenix's Theodore, we're already established residents of this arresting, icy, quivering world the filmmaker has built. We meet Theodore midway through his recitation of a "handwritten letter" he penned on behalf of a woman to her husband of many years. That's his job — tapping into his own unique sensititivies to play ghostwriter for people hoping to adorn their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and children with personal notes of personal affection. Theodore is no independent contractor; he's part of a thriving company, and we almost get the feeling that the folks on the receiving end of these letters are in the know. Before we ever encounter Samantha, we're embedded in the central conceit of the movie: emotional surrogacy is an industry on the rise.
What makes Jonze's world so palatable is that, beneath its marvelously eerie aesthetic, this idea is barely science-fiction. Theodore, humbled and scarred by a recent divorce from lifelong love Catherine (Rooney Mara, who contrasts Johansson by giving a performance that, for a large sum of the movie, is all body and no voice), accesses the will to go on through interractions with video game characters and phone-sex hotlines. But the ante is upped with Samantha, the self-named operating system that Theodore purchases to stave off loneliness, deeming choice a far less contorting one than spending time with old pals like Amy (Amy Adams)... at first.
Samantha evolves rather quickly from an articulate Siri into a curious companion, who is fed and engaged by Theodore just as much as she feeds and engages him. Jonze paces his construction of what, exactly, Samantha is so carefully that we won't even catch the individual steps in her change — along with Theodore, we slowly grow more and more enamored and mystified by his computer/assistant/friend/lover before we can recognize that we're dealing with a different being altogether from the one we met at that inceptive self-aware "H-hello?" But Jonze lays tremendous groundwork to let us know this story is all for something: all the while, as the attractions build and the hearts beat faster for Samantha, we foster an unmistakable sense of doom. We can't help but dread the very same perils that instituted one infamous admission: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
But Jonze's sci-fi constructs are so cohesively intertwined with his love story that our dread doesn't exactly translate to an anticipation of HAL's hostile takeover. Her wedges us so tightly between Theodore and Samantha that our fears of the inevitable clash between man and machine apprehend a smaller, more intimate ruin. As Samantha's growth become more surprising and challenging to Theodore, to herself, and to us, the omens build for each.
And although all three parties know better, we cannot help but affix ourselves to the chemistry between Theodore and Samantha, and to the possibility that we're building toward something supreme. A good faction of this is due to the unbelievable performances of Phoenix — representing the cautious excitement that we all know so painfully well — and Johansson, who twists her disembodied voice so empathetically that we find ourselves, like Theodore, forgetting that we have yet to actually meet her. The one castigation that we can attach to the casting of Johansson is that such a recognizable face will, inevitably, work its way into our heads when we're listening to her performance. It almost feels like a cheat, although we can guarantee that a performance this good would render a figure just as vivid even if delivered by an unknown.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
In this way, Her is as effective a comment on the healthiest human relationships as it is on those that rope in third parties — be they of the living, automated, or greeting card variety. In fact, the movie has so many things to say that it occasionally steps on its own feet, opening up ideas so grand (and coloring them so brightly) that it sometimes has trouble capping them coherently. Admittedly, if Spike Jonze had an answer to some of the questions he's asking here, he'd probably be suspected of himself being a super-intelligent computer. But in telling the story of a man struggling to understand what it means to be in love, to an operating system or not, Jonze invites us to dissect all of the manic and trying and wonderful and terrifying and incomprehensible elements therein. Just like Samantha, Her doesn't always know what to do with all of its brilliance. But that might be part of why we're so crazy over the both of them.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
It’s baa-ack! After getting our hearts smashed into millions of itty-bitty pieces in "The Break Up" and enduring 35 days of boring music-free programming, Glee is back! Unfortunately this episode did not show the New York storyline whatsoever, but chin up Glee-bees! There are some familiar faces strutting down the halls of McKinley, and Wemma fans get some much-needed loving from their favorite star-crossed teachers.
So Here’s What You Missed on Glee:
Finding his Place: While Finn is working hard in the body shop— complete with cute grease-stained jumper—Artie rolls on in to give his much-taller friend a much-needed pep talk. Finn is once again feeling lost, but also a tad bit melodramatic when he says he’s hoping to get crushed by one of the cars he’s working on. (Side-Note: Please smile, Finn. You’re a thousand times more attractive when you don’t pout.) Artie asks Finn to help him co-direct the new McKinley musical Grease, and after listening to Artie threaten to blow up Olivia Newton John (Gasp!) he reluctantly agrees. Finn is seriously doubting his directorial skills, so Artie reveals a special surprise. Just then the original New Direction reinforcements arrive and Mercedes and Mike walk down the hall (in slow motion of course!) and gleeks everywhere let out a slight squeal of delight upon seeing these familiar faces.
Relationship Woes: Over in the halls of McKinley, Blaine explains to his vice-president Sam that he is a complete and total wreck. “Since Kurt and I broke up I haven’t slept, I’ve lost my appetite and I don’t even gel on weekends.” Klaine fans then got a glimpse of what the future was supposed to hold for our beloved couple: “Kurt was my soul mate. We talked about spending the rest of our lives together. About retiring in Provincetown and buying a lighthouse together and start an artisan colony.” Unfortunately all those dreams are shattered right now because Kurt wont even answer his calls or texts, and he sent back Blaine’s peace offering gift: a boxed set of Gilmore Girls. (Side-Note: I’m obsessed with Gilmore Girls, so this only reaffirms the fact that Blaine and I are destined to be best friends and we need to go shoe-shopping together immediately) Blaine then breaks into a lovely rendition of “Hopelessly Devoted To You” whie reminiscing on all the good times he shared with his now ex-boyfriend and walking in slow-motion through a football practice. (Side-Note: Ugh, having to type “ex” when describing Kurt makes me feel nauseous.) Blaine ends his song on the auditorium stage and right on the spot Artie offers him the role of Danny Zuko. But Blaine tearfully declines and scampers off the stage like his heart has been broken all over again. (Side-Note: Noo! Come back! I'll give you a hug!)
Will and Emma are having some differences of opinions regarding the move to Washington while sitting in an impromptu therepy sesh with Coach Beiste. (Side-Note: Yay that Beiste is back! Yuck that Wemma is fighting!) Will pleads, “This is not just a once in a lifetime experience for me but for both of us.” Emma makes a fantastic case stating the she refuses to “play the part of the dutiful 1950’s housewife” and drop all of her dreams and pack up her life to follow Will’s quest for his dreams. Will quickly concedes once his sees how upset his fiancé is and then tells her the sweetest thing ever: “Emma I love you with every fiber of my being and no matter where we go or what we do, I want us to always be together.” Emma agrees to leave with Will, but coach Beiste can see the faint glimmer of doubt in Emma’s eyes. (Side-Note: It’s about damn time that Wemma graced our TV screens! I’ve desperately missed this adorable duo.) Beist confronts Emma in her office about lying to Will. She clearly does not want to go to Washington, but Emma says that she really wants to support her fiancé. “I can’t get in the way of his dreams, that’s what Terri did.” (Side-Note: I wonder if Terri ever became manager of Sheet-N-Things?)
Where in Lima is Tina? Luckily Mercedes has the answer! The forever dive says that Tina refuses to audition for the musical because she can’t stand to be in the same room as Mike. Burn. Mike later finds his former high school sweetheart in the halls and demand to know why she has been avoiding him. She snaps, “I was fine with our break up, out of sight, out of mind. But maybe you could’ve called and asked if I could handle you choreographing the school musical.” Mike practically begs her to audition for Gease, but Tina flat-out refuses. (Side-Note: Something tells me that Rachel would be proud of Tina’s dramatics, but she should never let an awkward situation stop her from stealing the spotlight.
The Newest Newbie: Although there are plenty of hopefuls for the role of Sandy, finding someone to slip into Danny’s leather jacket is proving to be a tricky task. So Finn decides to stalk the students of McKinley high and Coach Beist introduces us to our newest newbie. “Ryder Lynn, sophomore. I think he flunked out of his old so they transferred him here. Sweet enough kid but he’s a loner and can’t learn a play for his life and if you ask me I’d say he’s got a last streak.” Finn sends and extra gullible teacher to leave the classroom and he then takes the opportunity to introduce himself to Ryder.
Finn encourages Ryder to follow in his footsteps and audition for the glee club promising that it will somehow open up his brain and let him get better grades. (Side-Note: I love Finn, but I so desperately wanted someone to stand up in that classroom and yell, “He doesn’t even go here!”) Ryder arrives at Grease auditions and he and Finn share a rocking duet—complete with air guitar—to “Jukebox Hero.” (Side-Note: Welcome to Glee Ryder! I think you’ll fit in quite nicely, but mostly because you’re like a baby Finn.)
Over in the hallway we see Marley and Ryder having the cutest conversation. She compliments his end-zone dance moves, he compliments her mom’s generosity and for a brief moment I was just as giggly as Marley watching the two newbies interact. (Side-Note: Don’t tell Jake I just said that.) Oh crap I think he heard me! Jake is brooding down the hall as he seethes with jealousy watches Marley and Ryder talk. Cue Kitty to enter the scene and make matters bajillion times worse: Kitty goes off on one of her attack-Marley rants and Ryder promptly calls her a bitch. (Side-Note: Santana’s monologues were hands-down better, but I can still appreciate a longwinded verbal slap in the face when I see one.)
NEXT: The Auditions!
The Auditions: Over in the ladie’s room, Unique tells Marley that she so desperately wants to play the party Rizzo in the musical, but just as Marley was in the middle of her pep-talk, Coach Sue arrives tries to squash their spirits. No worries, Marley and Unique with a audition a kickass rendition of Pink’s “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)”
Jake and Kitty decide to team up for their Grease audition and give a brilliant performance of Neon Tree’s “Everybody Talks.” (Side-Note: Hands down this was my favorite performance of the night and it’s not just because the former cheerleader in me was beyond impressed with Jakes beautiful layout step-out.) But of course in true Glee fashion, Marley was watching the entire performance off stage and she is crushed to see that Jake is so handsy with his ex-girlfriend.
As their call-back song the group performs “Hand Jive” and it was fantastic to hear Mercedes’ diva-licious voice again. The performance was filled with lots of pushes and shoves from Kitty and she tried to dig her claws into the part of Sandy, but it’s clear that the “Summer Loving” chemistry is between Marley and Ryder. (Side-Note: This is the part where I reaffirm that I ship Jarley so y’all don’t need to freak out.)
Finding his Voice: Finn decides he wants cast Unique in the part of Rizzo but almost like magic, Sue enter the choir room an demands that Principal Figgins wants to see him in his office. (Side-Note: But he’s not a student!) Sue explains, “We’ve become somewhat of a progressive bubble here at McKinley High and I think that’s due to the fact that the glee club is being run by a strange weepy man child who has lotion in his hair but no adult friends. We live in Ohio and if you choose to cast Rizzo with a naïve gender-confused boy boy in a dress, I guarantee someone is going to raise a very public stink about it.” And by “someone” she means Sue.
Finn finally finds his confidence and stands up to the cheerios coach and… holy freakin crap. (Side-Note: I’m typing all this as I’m watching and just now hearing Finn refer to Sue’s newborn daughter as “a retarted baby,” has made my stomach tie up in knots. This is so not the Finn we know, and I’m honestly baffled as to why this just happened) It’s clear that Finn has just unleashed hell-hath-no-fury Sue and New Directions need to buckle down for the wave of terror that is surely headed their way. (Side-Note: Okay honesty time: Although we are all shocked that the writer’s would have Finn blurt that out, we can’t quite call it out of character. Remember when he called Kurt the three lettered “f” word in way back when? It’s just unfortunate that the writers would exploit Finn’s blunt tendencies like this. He's a good one!)
Over in the library, Finn offers Unique the part of Rizzo and says that if anyone has a problem with his casting choices, he’ll handle it. The look on Unique’s face when she gets the part makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. She the gives us some insight into the challenges she faces everyday stating. “I don’t feel right when I go into the men’s locker room, but I can’t go into the girls. I don’t feel right in men’s clothing, but I can’t wear dresses everyday. It sucks to never know your place. It’s just nice for once to feel like I’ve finally found one.” (Side-Note: Squee!)
The Final Five: Emma is cooking up a storm their kitchen and it only takes about 2.5 seconds for Will to realize that she’s upset. Emma admits (for the second time) that she does not want to go to Washington. “For the past three years, all I wanted was to be your wife but when I really stop to think about it I have no idea what that means to me.” Emma explains that she is terrified to go with Will because she does not want to end up resenting him for dropping her dreams. They once again show up that this is what a real couple should be and after listing what being a husband/wife really means, they agree to switch off visiting on weekends. (Side-Note: Who else screamed out loud when the Wemma wedding was mentioned?) Over in the choir room Will tells his former student that he is leaving the glee club for a few months and he wants Finn to take over for him. Just as Finn was done pondering and about to say “yes” or “no” the episode ends. Not to worry glee-bees we all know he’s going to say yes...
Grease Call Sheet:
“Rizzo”—Wade “Unique” Adams
“Cha Cha”—Brittany S. Pierce
“Teen Angel”—Blaine Anderson
“Patti Simcocks”—Kitty Wilde
Most Heart-Warming Moment: The look on Unique’s face when she got the part of Rizzo.
Most Heart-Breaking Moment: Seeing Finn’s remorse for his outburst with Sue.
“As president and vice president we can pretty much decree which ever parts we want right?”—Sam “Grease Lightening is my cell phone ringtone and I’ve been knocked out by a car door before so I was really looking forward to recreating that moment on stage.”—Sam “I sit when I pee.”—Unique
“You Urethra Franklin, you are a boy and you are fooling no one. You are smuggling more kielbasa under those gowns than and homesick Polish lady trying to sneak through customs.”—Coach Sue
“Dreams aren’t free.”—Unique
Vote it it out!
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href="http://polldaddy.com/poll/6676315/"&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;What was the best song of the night?&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Are you beyond excited to have Finn back on our TV screens and finding his place? Do you agree with the Grease castings? Who are you rooting for: Jarley or Ryley? Did you miss me? I sure as hell missed you! Sing out all your thoughts in the comments below!
Follow Leanne on Twitter @LeanneAguilera
[Photo Credit: FOX]