"Her" Review: Craig's First Take

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A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that's designed to meet his every need.
4.5

“Her” is even more indication that we’re moving toward a society where robo-human relations become the norm. It’s also a surprising, thrillingly alive relationship movie from writer-director Spike Jonze (director of “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation”). One would think that Siri might have had a bit to do with its crafting but it’s actually based on an article Jonze read about instant messaging with artificial intelligence many years ago. Who would think that something like this could be taken to such a sensual, observant, and touching place as he takes this film?

He also creates what i’m assuming is the future here as Hallmark-style businesses have now expanded into writing love letters for people, video games make it possible to not only play but communicate with the characters (one such character is a hilariously foul-mouthed little Pillsbury Doughboy look-alike) and you can now afford your own operating system that is designed to personally fit your needs. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a professional writer of those Hallmark letters, has bought one of these systems, which is so sentient that it even christens itself with the name Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).

Theo is a sad, lonely man. His personal life exists primarily on his phone where he looks at messages, pics of pregnant celebrities, and participates in phone sex with incredibly disturbing people. He’s lost in a world between trying to get over the pain of a past love (Rooney Mara) and the fear of making it work with someone new (Olivia Wilde in a great scene). His friend Amy (Amy Adams) can only do so much to help. Phoenix is excellent at playing a man whose confidence is shaken; his feeling of being defective consumes much of his life. Between the loss and the fear is Samantha, who is capable of scheduling and organizing his life, but who is also capable of evolving both intelligently and emotionally.

So Theo is afraid of being whole again while Samantha eventually begins to wonder what wholeness might be like (for example: what having a body might be like). As the bond grows, Jonze makes other fantastic insights like how a relationship offers us the chance to see the world from a completely different perspective, where bodily attraction ends and human feeling begins (the best scene in the film is a blank screen with just their voices being heard), and even though they seem to have such chemistry together, how much of this relationship is actually real and how much is manufactured either in Theo’s head or her programing? “Her” is a funny film, a romantic film, but it also makes you think about love- an uncomfortable and painful a subject as it is a happy one.