Right now, you are reading my review through the lens of your best friend. If that statement shocks you after careful moments of consideration, then don't be alarmed. It only indicates that you are in touch with the times. Your computer has evolved from a complex tool to a mechanism that impinges every aspect your life and relationships. You need it bad and you won't imagine life without it. Spike Jonze's film "Her" takes our anomalous relationships with computers and explores them within reasonable extremes.
In the not too distant future of "Her", we meet Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a man down on his luck after his wife finalizes their divorce procedures. Theodore writes personal love letters for people who have trouble expressing their feelings-interpersonal conversations in this era are traded for texts or tweets-To help ease his workload, Theodore purchases an OS, an artificial intelligence that can-personally-sort through his divorce papers and organize work his files. The OS has the ability to not only communicate with Theodore, but to adapt and evolve like a normal human being would. Theodore gives the OS a female designation, and it names itself Samantha (Scarlett Johansson).
The pair quickly bond and engage in a series of serious conversations about life and relationships. The ever curios Samantha clearly wants the best for Theodore and does everything it can to make him happy. It yearns for a physical body to help circumvent Theodore's loneliness and begins to explore its own carnal desires. After a blind date goes awry for Theodore, the pair engages in very passionate, awkward, yet highly believable sex acts. Afterwards, they begin to refer to themselves and others as a couple.
Problems arise, as you would expect, as Theodore's reluctance to move on from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) becomes glaringly obvious. Samantha grows jealous and an interesting, yet cluttered series of events unfold that often pull them apart and bind them back together. Their fates I will not spoil.
Director Spike Jonze does a great job in "Her," telling a compelling story with tremendous visuals to boot. Years ago, he directed an IKEA commercial teasing us about our feelings for an inanimate object (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I07xDdFMdgw) and he unapologetically challenges that idea in his film. He makes it hard not to feel for Samantha, who is just a program, but it is constantly yearning to be a loving human. Samantha is programmed to feel the way the way it does, but it makes the choice to act on those feelings. The same thing could be said about how we're wired. I can say for a fact that Samantha is more human than many of the real life characters I've seen at the movies over the past few years. Spike Jonze does a great job convincing the audience that, yes, a computer and a human can fall in love with each other and the groundwork for such a romance can be foreshadowed by the world you live in right today-Go to a restaurant, look at how many people are chatting face to face versus those who are looking down at their cell phones.
Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson do great work here and have great chemistry even though Scarlett is never seen on screen. Phoenix's Theodore is a highly awkward, often creepy nerd who we believe would actually fall for a computer program after such an emotional breakup. The guy's got heart. This is Phoenix's best role in my opinion, one which he deserves the highest of praises. I want to mention my preference for Johansson to star in roles like this; she did a fantastic job in "Lost in Translation" where she played a kinder character, probably the opposite of what she is rumored to be like in real life. Her voice work in this film is impeccable.
"Her" doesn't discourage our advances in modern technology nor does it condemn the relationships we have built with them. What is does is show us is how dependent we're becoming on technology and ultimately what that dependence could-and probably will-evolve into. At its heart, it shows us that all relationships are complicated and love or the yearning to be loved is what often keeps us together and/or tears us apart.
"Her" is a fantastic, thought-provoking film that will stay with you long after you walk out of theater. Its wit, invention, romance, and bizarre charm make it a genuine winner in a muddled year of clunky remakes and sequels. Here is an original idea, expertly executed, that will stand the test of time. I think there will be a day where we look back on this film and say, "Wow, they hit it right on the nose."
Here some things to ponder: Yes, a man can fall in love with his computer, but will that satisfy all of his biological needs (urges)? Can the same be said about the OS or any computer? How far can our ego keep us from seeing the absolute truths that are flashing right in front of us?