Spike Jonze’s new drama, Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson, is the story about a lonely writer who, after a devastating break-up, develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that is designed to meet his every need. This soon ponders the nature of love in the impending virtual world. It dares to ask the question of what might be preferable, a romantic relationship with a human being, or an electronic one that’s designed to be prefect?
Jonze yet again brings his traditional unique and whimsical style to another soulful and tender film. The movie is set sometime in the distant future, where our society and technology have melded into perfect harmony. Here it’s commonplace to see people interacting with electronic devices like friends more than tools, a world of peaceful tranquility where the devices and humans have bonded in symbioses for the better in some aspects: work, life, etc. But when a new OS, operating system, becomes available that can learn and grow, things begin to change.
The movie centers upon Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) who is a writer for an Internet company that has people take on the task of writing heartfelt letters for others who can’t do it themselves. Think of him as a Cyrano type. After his divorce he feels alone, until he sees an ad for the operating system (OS1) that absorbs information and adapts so fast that the resulting conversation can match anything-real life can offer. Thus we meet Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) providing the voice of an OS that’s more human than his ex-wife. Theodore instantly bonds with this OS and begins a relationship.
The relationship between them is an amazing portrayal of a “real” romance with all the ups and downs that life has to offer. Samantha starts slowly, by helping him get his life back in order, then the two are off exploring life together, as he can carry his OS in shirt pocket. They date, go on vacations, have dinner with friends, and even have sex as if it’s a human romance, except it’s not. There are some moments where they show society not understanding the relationship, but that’s not what the story is about, so it doesn’t hurt the film, but it does let you know there are some people in this wonderful world Jonze has created that may not like the OS/human bond. This little addition really makes the movie more real in a sense. People are scared of change or things they don’t understand. In human nature, and with a movie all about the new human nature, we need to see a little bit of the darkness.
But as for the movie itself, it’s another fine example of directing and acting. Jonze really is a beautiful filmmaker. His shot comprehension is intrusive yet real. He has a way of having the camera worked into making you feel as if you’re a part of the story and not just a viewer. The way he weaves his craft by pulling at all your heartstrings with wonderful music by Arcade Fire is delightful. Each music piece that accompanies a scene really adds so much more to it. This is a beautiful and humorous puzzle with all the right pieces.
Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson are amazing. Even if they never share a single frame together, his acting off of her voice over is some of the best. They become a perfect couple at points; they hit every mark you wish to see. The movie does become slightly tiring in the third act, but so does a relationship that is souring. The movie is set up in a way that you also have the highs and lows of going though their relationship with them, which is praise to everyone who made this, because it felt that real.
Theodore’s life is sprinkled with some wonderful characters played by some great actors who add more flavor to the movie: Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, Rooney Mara, and Chris Pratt. All people who come in and out of Theodore’s life to help him along his journey with Samantha, no matter how short they may be in the movie, they turn in great performances and are remembered.
Many questions are raised during the movie that will have the viewer wondering about long after your ride home. Is this OS artificial being providing grater fulfillment than a flesh-and-bone human? Is a body so important? Is there an equal value to a virtual romance verses a human one? Is a virtual marriage the next fight? The movie really challenges you to think on what is real love? This is something that will happen, in this age we live in, where our devices are becoming stronger and we’re letting them run our lives more, is this movie a cautionary tale as much as it is a love story? Either way, it’s a great film that many can enjoy and see real beauty in.