How do I love thee? Siri, count the ways.
People walk the streets talking aloud to their phones, wrapped up in their own electrical worlds. Digital interfaces have nullified human interaction.
Living a quiet life of digital obscurity is Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix: The Master). A ghostwriter of handwritten correspondence for a faceless corporation, he pours over the personal lives of people who would rather play with their phones than write love letters and thank you notes.
On the tail end of a divorce, Theodore is testing the dating game. But people are difficult; videogames and technology are easy. To streamline his life, he buys a new artificial intelligence operating system. Thus Theodore meets Samantha (Scarlett Johansson: Don Jon), who is his new operating system.
Think of her as Siri with a sexier voice.
She begins as an assistant, sorting Theodore’s email, suggesting music, keeping him on time for appointments. But her helpful nature and apparent curiosity about Theodore put her on more intimate terms with the shy, wounded man.
Are we only a few iPhone updates away from romancing a programmed intelligence?
Director Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are) constructs a strange but plausible future that seems no further than 10 years ahead.
His cinematography and style enhance the world of Her, which looks like an updated Apple store. Lines are sleek, clothes are cute and everything has a touch of whimsy. Her is a beautifully realized film filled with visual interest, not one frame wasted.
As Theodore, Phoenix is a jumble of isolation and adulation. He gives a believable and impressive performance as he falls in love with a phone, crooning, dancing, whispering the sweet nothings you expect from a man in love. As he’s often the only physical presence, his hold on our attention is remarkable.
Johansson does masterful voice work as Samantha, imbuing a four-inch metal box with warmth and soul as she challenges Theodore to go out in the world and celebrate the beauty of life.
But is it love?
No matter how charming and unique Samantha seems, she is a program generated to please Theodore. His choices are the basis of her personality, meaning that there’s an even darker layer to the story: Is it Samantha’s choice to love Theodore? Jonze doesn’t answer that.
A brilliant look at our deep and often dysfunctional relationship with technology, Her is a film that all you smartphone users should see.