In a not-too-distant future, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) suffers from loneliness. He is separated from his wife and resorts to phone sex, internet porn, and video games to fill the vast hole that is left in his heart. Fortunately, being in touch with his emotions is advantageous for a man who works at a letter-writing-for-hire company, dictating poetic missives for customers in need.
As his depression and his inability to connect with women increases, he finds comfort in an AI-driven operating system who calls herself Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). From the get go, Samantha sounds remarkably human, with an emotional and intellectual IQ far surpassing her mortal counterparts.
Theodore shares his experiences with his confidant, Amy (Amy Adams), even divulging that he has developed an intimate relationship with Samantha. Can a man and AI truly be in love or is this just another diversion for Theodore to avoid real love?
Writer and director Spike Jonze has delivered another successful , albeit quirky movie, that has received many positive reviews. It is difficult to classify the film, as it blends elements of romance, comedy, science fiction, and dialog-heavy drama. Her is a movie about how technology has enslaved humanity, taking away our ability to connect with others on an interpersonal level. Theodore’s sense of loss and loneliness is muted by the technology around him and only through situations where he is forced to connect with humans is his pathetic state made apparent. It is also a movie about love and what the meaning of love actually is.
As a fan of science fiction, I found the world to be an interesting study. There are two options in Hollywood for the future:
- A cyberpunk setting that blends dark tones, dilapidated buildings, and Japanese style
- A utopian setting that blends brightness, cleanliness, and post-modern style
Her falls into the latter category, with not a wad of paper on the ground, perfectly clean rooms, and vast technology that is available to everyone. In addition to post-modern decor, the fashion has gone downhill, with shirts being tucked into high-rise wool pants being the latest style.
Her is just over two hours long and it feels like it. Much of the movie is focused on the dialog between Theodore and Sam and while it is captivating, it makes for a slow-moving movie. The dialog is witty and there are a few moments of laugh-out-loud humor that give the movie character. There is also some language and sexual humor that may be uncomfortable for some.
Even though the technology in the movie was part of the allure for me, it is so far disconnected from science and plausibility that it is more of a prop or plot device than a science fiction extrapolation of our society. Regardless, the premise leaves many questions to ask and I found myself contemplating the meaning of life while Theodore interacted with his virtual lover.
Overall, I found this movie to be a fresh change of pace and am very glad I saw it. It is quirky, but grounded in the highest level of human emotion, pleasing viewers from diverse walks of life. For those looking for a change of pace, Her is definitely worth your while. I’m just not sure what I fear more — AI’s taking over the world or pants being buttoned above the belly button.