When the trailer for Spike Jonez’s latest offering was released months ago, I dismissed it. Flat out, I wanted nothing to do with it. The whole idea of a guy who’s so socially and emotionally tragic that he falls in love with a computer seemed trite and cheap and off putting. That premise in one way or another has been lampooned and played up for laughs in TV shows and movies for as long as I can remember, and as a single guy (divorced) it’s always seemed like a low blow to me when I encounter it. News Flash! The singles dating scene can be an fucking zoo at times and watching someone (even a fictitious someone) have to navigate through it can be torturous. That being said, I did sit down and watched “Her” and must admit that Spike Jones took something that was painfully tired and turned it on it’s side, providing the viewer with a rarely seen perspective of this digital ideal.
The movie presumably takes place in the near future. A future where computer AI (artificial intelligence) is an integral part of daily life. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a talented writer for a company that crafts personal handwritten letters for customers looking to make a sentimental impression on the letter’s recipient. Think of it this way, you want to send your mom a nice heartfelt letter since you wont be able to make it home for Thanksgiving this year but you lack the emotional soul to write it yourself (or you’re just lazy) so you hire a professional writer to do it for you.
While Theodore is excellent at his job, his social life is on life support. He rarely goes out with his friends and ends his evenings playing (some very advanced) video games and surfing internet chat rooms. Theodore is married to Catherine (Rooney Mara) but their relationship ended abruptly within the year. Theodore has been reluctant to finalize the divorce proceedings and thinks often about her and what went wrong in their relationship. One day while heading home from work Theodore sees an advertisement for the new “OS 1” software that promises its users a new experience in AI. Theodore’s curiosity prompts him purchase the software and after a few personal questions are answered is introduced to Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) his computer’s new operating system (or OS). It doesn’t take long interacting with Samantha before Theodore realizes that she’s like no one he’s ever met.
First off, if the future trend in fashion for men involves me having to wear my pants up over my stomach and regrow (yes, I used to have one sad to say) a creepy-perve mustache, no thanks! Joaquin Phoenix looks the part of the harmless yet somehow still kinda creepy introverted writer and portrays it great as well (geee that’s a stretch huh, ppppfffffttt). His depression, angst and malaise are all things I can identify with as a writer and without really thinking much about it I found myself immediately invested in his story. His performance paired with Scarlett Johansson’s wonderful voice over work are the heart and soul of the movie.
The relationship that develops between the two characters is outlandish to be sure, but still believable and manages to highlight exactly what can happen in relationships if one or both parties are limited in their abilities to be open and honest with the other. The secondary cast is good here, but with the talent we see on screen I’m a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of them.
Amy Adams plays “Amy“, Theodore’s best friend and manages to pull off appearing plain and vulnerable. Chris Pratt plays a friend and co-worker of Theodore’s named “Paul” who isn’t phased in the slightest when he learns of Theodore’s digital relationship. And Rooney Mara does a great job as Theodore’s soon to be ex and her character provides some very interesting notions about how or why Theodore would think to possible replace her with a voice on his laptop.
This movie made me ask some questions about myself and the personal relationships I have and the ones I’ve yet. It’s not your traditional relationship movie but it does deal with traditional themes. Love, trust, social stigma, personal friendships, it’s all here and very much worthy of your time to see it.