Sunday, January 19, 2014

Finding "Her" in Translation

I meant to go see 12 Years a Slave today because I just finished reading Uncle Tom's Cabin yesterday and wanted to do a compare and contrast. I was about 10 minutes late for 12 and ended up going to another show on my list, Her.

Joaquin Phoenix in Her. Images from
I'm a little rusty on shows I would compare and contrast this one to. From the premise--an artificially intelligent operating system of the future gains user trust by casually getting permission to read his entire hard drive, e-mails and all--I thought it would be more of a Big Brother/Big Corporation evil takeover thriller like The Net. In the latter, Sandra Bullock's character is much like Joaquin Phoenix's character Theodore, a nerdy, lonely techie.

But there is no sinister plot twist in Her other than the implications for human connectivity. Samantha (voiced by Lost in Translation star Scarlett Johansson) evolved in and out of her humanity with the accelerated learning capability that she was built with. That's the future that's being created now. Her feelings and understandings are both real and fictional, vivid recreations of reality but not real reality.

Her has the same melancholy feel to it that Lost in Translation had. The premise, though, is probably more polarizing. So which is creepier, having a middle-aged man fall in love with a young girl, or having a lonely guy fall in love with his computer? Maybe only Scarlett Johansson can answer that! She makes a pretty fetching love interest for both Bill Murray and Joaquin Phoenix.

The other film this sort of reminded me of was Purple Rose of Cairo, in which Mia Farrow falls in love with a character on the movie screen. As she puts it, "he's fictional, but you can't have everything."

Who among us hasn't fallen in love with someone fictional at some point? I love the same heroes that Jane Austen's heroines pant for. I loved my Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, or some imagined combination of those characters. If virtual relationships bring joy, what's the big deal?

The big deal is the realization that it can only be one-sided. Theodore's own occupation--writing "beautiful handwritten letters" on behalf of strangers, whom he gets to "know" by doing their correspondence for them--is really no different from Samantha's occupation as an operating system. He gradually accepts her as an intimate, but she is unlikely to truly feel more for him than he feels for his clients. That reality is what makes "fictional" relationships heartbreaking.

Anyway, I didn't find Her to be particularly creepy. And I spy a happy ending after the ending.

Now let's talk about the garments of the near future, these high-waisted misadventures on men. Now THIS is creepy:

The costume designer is Casey Storm, but there was another end credit for a "future" wardrobe or costume consultant. Unfortunately, I don't see that name in the IMDb crew listings and I've forgotten it already. Calling Project Runway!!

eta, here is a quote about the costuming from Casey Storm in Women's Wear Daily:

“The high-waisted thing is kind of referencing things decades past,” said Casey Storm, the film’s costume designer. “Maybe some Humphrey Bogart played into it.”

So there you go: It's retro. So much for vision, but I guess it's selling. Big Corporations win after all.

Love, hosaa
Slightly mistrustful of both virtual and real reality

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