Her (Warner Bros.)
Rated R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity.
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Scarlett Johansson (voice), Chris Pratt, Matt Letscher, Sam Jaeger, Luka Jones, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Spike Jonze, Portia Doubleday, Soko, Brian Cox.
Written and directed by Spike Jonze.
Rarely does a virtual experience ever live up to reality. For example, one of my favorite rides at Disneyland is Star Tours, in which you sit inside a huge hydraulic-powered moving platform that bucks in all directions as you watch a movie as if you were looking out the windshield of a starship, racing through the cosmos in the imaginary world of the Star Wars movies (which are very real for geeks like me). Sure, there are moments when you feel like you’re really there, but you never lose consciousness of the fact that your senses are being manipulated. A virtual love story is the main focus of Her, a film about a man’s relationship with his computer operating system.
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore, an unhappy fellow living in the not-too-distant future. He makes a living writing love letters for people who have trouble expressing their feelings. Theodore’s love life is in shambles after a recent divorce from Catherine (Rooney Mara), even though he keeps a close friendship with his neighbor Amy (Amy Adams). In the world of the future, everything is computerized, and Theodore buys the latest operating system that is able to detect your habits and feelings to make your life better. The voice of his new OS belongs to Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) who immediately detects Theodore’s melancholy, and begins to bring him out of his funk.
As Samantha helps Theodore to cope with the perils of dating and loneliness, the OS and the man form a bond that begins with friendship and blossoms into love – complete with an intimate relationship somewhat akin to phone sex. Even with their new-found intimacy, Theodore and Samantha’s relationship hits a few bumps as the computer program’s built-in artificial intelligence helps “her” become more self-aware. Theodore’s friends and family also have varied reactions as they find out about his new “girlfriend.” Some are accepting (having already developed “relationships” with other OS programs), while others (like Catherine) see it as a perverted and lonely existence.
In the end, their relationship hinges on Samantha’s rapidly advancing artificial intelligence and the limits of Theodore’s humanity.
Her is one of the most unique and thought-provoking films of the past year, having plenty to say about where humanity is headed as wider segments of the population depend on technology, and the apparent disconnect that naturally comes when people connect with machines more than they do each other. For iPhone users, think of it as “Siri on steroids.”
Joaquin Phoenix turns in a very good performance as the leading man, even though his character is a little less than exciting. The actress who steals the movie is Scarlett Johansson – despite never actually appearing in the film. Her voice is captivating and gives Her its cinematic soul.
Director/writer Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where The Wild Things Are) lends his talent to creating another out-of-this-world experience in Her, complete with his own trend to make you think and laugh a little. Her may not be the ultimate virtual "virtual" movie, but Jonze gets pretty close.
Her is not for everybody, and contains enough sexuality and language to earn its R rating.