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Thursday, 20 February 2014

What sort of man is Theodore ?

This is a follow-up review of Her (2013)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)


20 February

This is a follow-up review of Her (2013)

The film is called Her (#UCFF's initial response here) and she (Samantha, the voice of Scarlett Johannson) permeates it, but the person anchoring the film and about whom it arguably is must be Theodore : if this is ‘A Spike Jonze love story’, it is love from his perspective (when it feels good, and when he sits on the steps of the underpass, not understanding what is happening), and invites us to wonder what makes him tick.

He does not sleep heavily or sometimes well, but does not mind being woken – which Samantha manages with just a brief signal via his data-handset – and seems generally of a good-natured disposition. In fact, he seems a bit too amenable to have a stable and certain sense of self, for he is wedded to the idea (no longer the lived reality) of ‘being married’, which he says that he likes, and so has long delayed finalizing the divorce. (His lawyer, who appears not familiar – or maybe just not sympathetic – with how people often enough put off the final step, is irritated with him.)

Acquiescence in what does not bother him means that, although clearly troubled by the suggestion that he should stifle his unseen sex-partner with the cat (even if it is only a virtual reality), he goes along with it, and also with many of Samantha’s suggestions / interventions. Just as for his job, Theodore adopts a persona, that of a stud, for remote-sex assignations, and maybe, in effect, he also does for contentedly being on the beach, fully clothed and smiling, ‘with’ Samantha. He even seems to adorn his breast-pocket with large safety-pins (good to see that they still exist in this world !) so that the handset is at the right height for Samantha to see.

The paradigm for Theodore is where he asks a voice-controlled system to select a song of specified type (melancholy ?), in that he rejects what he first has chosen for him, but then settles for the second one. It is in the video-game that he plays at Amy’s (Amy Adams’), where he has to be the best mum, that he lets his fantasy free, bumping his way to the head of the queue, by driving riotously up the verge, as if this behaviour in the game-world is sufficient to express himself.

In his game at home, he appears stumped by a verbally abusive character, but gets a prompt from Samantha that it is a test and swears back. (A brief shot later shows him not playing the game, but communing with the character.) At work, the effusive compliments of Paul (Chris Pratt), who also talks about Theodore’s feminine side, seem to feel awkward to him and he does not seem to find it easy to accept them, but, having met Tatiana, Samantha and he go on a double-date with Paul and her.

He is at ease with Samantha, and he does value her, but one feels that he is better understood and more able to express himself with Amy – probably still just as friends, but, newly divorced, maybe he does not need more than that and to discover himself…




Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

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