Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Beauty of Her

One more thing about today’s nominations. I like the Oscars because there’s a sense of legacy to the flawed institution and it gets to reward those who aren’t typically rewarded. I really can’t care about Oscar snubs for Robert Redford and Tom Hanks because I’m going to go out on a limb and say they’re probably going to be okay. Instead let’s focus on the unheralded who did some amazing work.

What I was really happy to see was K.K. Barrett and Gene Serdena’s nomination for the film Her. There have been so many tweets and Facebook posts lately about what all “needs” to happen within the next year to make Back to the Future II accurate. Those are amusing (well mostly repetitive) but that was never meant to be a fully realized science-fiction world. It’s a fun satirical look at different aspects of culture that are all jumbled together to make for an entertaining romp.

Why I love Her so much is that it’s not a glimpse of our future, but a future we wish we had. I started to notice halfway through the movie that I hadn’t seen a single corporate logo. The OS system that Theodore uses doesn’t have an apple on it or even a name. Everywhere he walks, there aren’t billboards screaming about things to buy. He does get the occasional junk email but he is able to get a system in place to ignore those for him. The elevators are clean, the offices are colorful and the homes are filled with items not products.

Her has a world where society has evolved to become user-friendly, not corporation friendly. It’s shockingly nice. There were two times during the plot I was worried that a lawsuit was going to break out, but that never happened. There is civility amongst everyone because in this magical world, people are just trying to connect with one another. When Theodore sits for a moment near the end of the film and watches everyone on their mobile devices, they’re not looking like drones. They are engaging and talking and happy. This isn’t a world of distractions, but a world to focus on the things that matter the most to us.

These types of worlds are rarely depicted because the boring conclusion to technology is that it’s bad and evil and we need to only use quills because that’s what our Founding Fathers had. Other than ignorant/boring luddite approach, futuristic stories often use technology as a foil because that’s where the conflict arises. Spike Jonze has taken the (in retrospect) obvious approach in that concept and realized that people inherently create their own drama in their journey to be happy.

Barrett and Serdena created a world where people try to fulfill their happiness through their lifestyle without commenting on consumerism. Money is rarely brought up in the world, often only when it’s being rejected. Chris Pratt’s character of Paul is complimented about his shirt from Theodore and then is seen wearing it a couple of more times throughout the film. That shirt wasn’t about how much it cost or what brand it is; it’s about how that shirt made him connect to Theodore.

When Theodore talks to his date about the video game, it isn’t about the top-of-the-line graphics but about the connection he had with one of the characters. He doesn’t even own a TV to play it, but lets it surround him in a room as if it was tangible as anything else in his life. This focus on a richer importance seemed to make a superior product because nothing is seen malfunctioning in the world. Theodore can always get the letters sent, voice-command to listen and the videos to play exactly when you want them to.

Now I’ve given credit to a lot of people in this including Jonze as a screenwriter and (not-nominated) costume designers. Yet it was Barrett and Serdena that made me realize how this world functioned and they did so in an intelligent and non-flashy way. I can’t wait to see the movie again for a number of reasons, but I want to look even closer at the way this world reflects the kindness and peace the characters want for themselves and others.

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