Director: Spike Jonze
Writers: Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde
Running Time: 126 minutes
In a world where a man can marry a video game character, is it really all that far-fetched that someone could fall in love with a computer operating system? That’s exactly what happens to Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) in Spike Jonze’s new film, Her.
Feeling more alone than ever after an unwanted separation from his wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara), Theodore purchases a brand new operating system with advanced artificial intelligence. The OS has its own unique female identity named “Samantha” (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Samantha’s witty demeanor and intellectual philosophies intrigue Theodore, and the two of them quickly form a friendship. For the first time in months, he feels invigorated and ready to crawl out of his self-induced shell. Perhaps this broadening of his horizons is what pushes Theodore to seek out more than a friendship.
On paper, this sort of relationship is odd and offputting. Yet in the world of Her, it’s not all that absurd. When Theodore announces his new girlfriend to his friend and neighbor, Amy (Amy Adams), she doesn’t flinch. After all, people are constantly talking on their smartphones in their own little worlds (though in Her, small earbuds have replaced phones).
While Theodore is walking through the futuristic Los Angeles, we are constantly shown dozens of people at a time, all of whom are talking at once — but never to each other. This is clearly a form of satire from Jonze, and it’s a bit sad just how much it hits home in today’s day and age. We have never been able to be so close to others yet remain so far apart. Quite honestly, I suspect we’re not too far off from having advanced AI like Samantha.
And what a character she is! Brought fully to life with some truly impressive voice acting from Johansson, Samantha has quite the personality. It’s easy to see why a lonely soul like Theodore could grow so smitten with her. She’s funny, intelligent, open-minded and caring; basically, she’s the whole package, just not in physical form. Even Theodore’s friends grow attached to her; at one point, the two of them do a “double date” with another couple, and it never feels awkward at all.
There’s a lot to like in Her, from the performances (especially that of Phoenix, who honestly deserved an Oscar nod) to the wonderful score by Arcade Fire. My only beef comes from the ending. It was a bit too abrupt and nonchalant for my liking, though admittedly the final shot is a beautiful one. With so many ideas in place, it’s possible that everyone will pull something different from Her. Technology, relationships, compassion, humanity… can an operating system really take the place of a human? Is that sustainable? All I know is that given the time, we as humans will keep trying to find ways to make it so.