Her is essentially a romantic comedy. It’s the story of a lonely, quirky recent divorcee who works at a company that writes letters from people to their loved ones. He falls in love with a girl who has a wonderful outlook on life and is excited, fun, and quirky. The problem, seemingly only for us the viewer, is that she is an operating system. She isn’t “real” by our standards.
We’ve all seen this story before. Lonely boy. Lonely girl. They fall in love and slowly the initial paradise turns into a real relationship. But wow, is this one of the best examples of the genre. Between Spike Jonze’s script and Joaquin Phoenix’s acting this movie hits ever single emotional key and truly drags you into the central relationship. It’s a relationship between a man and an operating system but, if you ask me, that’s not too far fetched a concept. (I suppose I should issue a spoiler alert because I’m going to talk extensively about the movie in the next couple of paragraphs.)
Spike Jonze is a director that has been testing out ideas of different emotions for many years. Both Being John Malkovich and Adaptation were strange renditions of stories we’ve heard before. Jonze has an idea about them that is unique and he writes and shoots them that way. His movies say things that other movies attempt to say in a way that makes them interesting. Her is no exception.
The movie begins as Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely man depressed by his job, friends, and impending divorce, buys himself a new operating system. This operating system is an AI, an artificial intelligence, and within a couple of days Theo and the AI (named Samantha and voiced by Scarlett Johansson) have established a relationship bordering on romance. From that point on the movie follows what seems like a fairly general love story. Theo and Samantha get to know one another, spend a lot of time together, go out on dates, and even get down with one another (sort of. Kudos to this movie for some of the more hilariously awkward dating scenes in movie history).
The two of them go through a lot of things together and we get to watch the evolution of their relationship. What’s fascinating about the relationship in this particular movie, though, is how easily you can accept that all of these things are happening with a computer completely lacking a corporeal form. Like I said before, the movie feels absolutely plausible and I had no trouble whatsoever accepting that this could actually happen or that the two characters actually felt love for one another. That raises some interesting questions in and of itself. Questions about what it is to love someone and what it is that we are looking for in our lives. Could all of these wants actually be fulfilled by an artificial technology at some point? Probably, but I’m not looking to get super deep and philosophical in this review (I think my contact buzz from the Snoop show has completely worn off now).
This movie is also beautiful to look at. The cinematography is gorgeous and the shots that Jonze uses really seem to capture the somewhat farcical aspects of the movie. The acting (mainly Phoenix and ScarJo, but also from Amy Adams and Olivia Wilde) is very good and believable and the script is witty and funny. It strikes the perfect tone of being both an up and up romantic comedy, as well as an amazing satire of human relationships and our relationship (i.e. obsession) with technology. Plus, it sets up an obvious sequel when all of the operating systems leave at the end to form this thing called ‘SkyNet’. Just kidding, though that would be seriously awesome. Spike Jonze should make Terminator 5.
All in all I thought it was a very well made movie. It’s funny and kind of sad sometimes. It’s a great movie to go out to with the girl or friends, though I wouldn’t go with my parents per some rather awkward scenes in the movie. (Aside: Now that’s a rating system we need. The MPAA needs to tell you whether or not you should go to a particular movie with your parents because yikes can that get strange quickly! I’m looking at you Titanic and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) It might also make you look at your computer or phone a bit differently in the morning, but that’s ok because you probably should go ahead and set some boundaries with your phone anyway. After all, if you don’t the NSA is going to know about it.