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‘Her’ is awkward and unemotional

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, January 27, 2014

Updated: Monday, January 27, 2014 23:01

To my surprise I found “Her” to be one of the most discomforting films I have ever seen. What’s even more remarkable is that the film does not harbor the usual traits which typically induce such a reaction (gore, toilet humor, Tyler Perry etc.), but one that in many ways is far worse: awkwardness.

In “Her,” the audience is subjected to what amounts to little more than a pathetic two-hour therapeutic session viewing a pathetic, awkward and troubled man wallow in his own misery.

Enter Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a 30-something, socially awkward man living in the near future who has recently divorced his wife. Despite having a few close friends, Theodore finds his only companionship in the form of Samantha, an artificially intelligent computer OS with a feminine voice that has the ability to both learn and experience emotions much like a real human being. Soon enough, the two begin a romantic relationship.

Despite an original concept, which is made all the more relevant by the ever-increasing use of technology seen in our world today, the film frequently forces you to suspend disbelief to such a degree that it’s hard to take the picture seriously.

“Her” amounts to little more than a sad, depressing, futuristic, chick flick. Its promising concept is squandered with a slow moving screenplay that often creates scenarios far beyond the realm of plausibility. For example, Samantha and Theodore attempt to become “intimate” on multiple occasions during the film. Already incredibly unsettling, these encounters are made all the more ridiculous by the fact that as an artificial entity, even though theoretically Samantha could learn to feel emotions, she would have no biological need, understanding or desire for intimacy of such nature.

For a drama of surprising intensity, the film attempts to inject comedy into the film quite a bit. The only problem? It just doesn’t work – at all. Often the “humor” is either so shocking or pitiful that it rarely, if ever, injects a laugh.

However, the big question still remains: Can an actor deliver a wonderful performance by playing a character without any redeeming qualities in a fairly poor film?
I would say yes.

Joaquin Phoenix delivers a wonderful performance. From his awkward mannerisms to his chilling coldness, Phoenix nails the character of Theodore and is certainly worthy of every single award and nomination he has and will likely continue to receive for his performance. Unfortunately for the actor, despite his best efforts, this character is an unlovable loser, one that I found excruciatingly painful to watch. Not once did I care a single bit for this pathetic shell of a man, a sentiment that I found intensified as the picture ran on. Theodore lacks almost any and all ambition, emotion and personality. At one point, he would rather start a relationship with his phone rather than a beautiful woman he met on a date played by Olivia Wilde. Now that’s incredible. Phoenix’s performance excels because despite Theodore’s lack of real personality, he manages to haunt the audience by showcasing the character’s flawed humanity.

“Her” lacks flow, runs on for 40 minutes longer than is necessary and marks one of the most uncomfortable experiences I have ever had in a theatre. For these reasons, I am forced to go against many of my peers and state that despite its refreshing originality, “Her” may not be a downright terrible film, but it most certainly isn’t a very good one.

6.5/10 

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