If you’re like me, and there was ever a time that you had strong feelings for somebody you only knew through your computer, then you’ll probably relate to this movie. Especially if it was back in the earlier days of the internet when all you had were a couple pictures, text via instant messenger, and, if you’re lucky, a voice on the telephone. It was the voice on the phone that made it all the more real. And in Her, a voice is all Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) needs to fall in love.
Can you really know somebody with just a voice? Is being in someone’s physical presence necessary for a relationship? Do you ever really know them, or are you just filling in the missing gaps with everything it takes to make them perfect?
I really enjoyed this movie. It’s not perfect, but it seems very real…very possible. We already live in a world where people walk in groups but don’t speak to each other. All focused on their phones instead. There’s a scene in Her where Theodore is walking through a crowd of people, all the while talking to his new operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) via a small earpiece. You’d think he’d stand out as a crazy person, seemingly talking to nobody, but he doesn’t because just about every other person is doing the same thing. A cacophony of conversations, none of which are directed at each other. This movie is set in the near future, but that future might turn into the present sooner than we think.
Is that a bad thing? Sure, Theodore has problems with relationships, but so have people for a lot longer time than computer technology has been around. Overall, he’s a nice, reasonably normal guy, despite being called creepy by a blind date in the one scene in the movie that didn’t work so well to me. But later, he and his new artificially intelligent operating system girlfriend go on a double date with a human-human couple, and they don’t think it’s weird at all. In fact, most people don’t seem to have a problem with it. Are we destined for a world where we reach a sort of pinnacle of self-centeredness, where we are in relationships with people who don’t actually exist, thus we’re essentially dating ourselves? I mean, that’s certainly what’s going on in the awkward sex scene…
I thought Spike Jonze came up a bit short in the emotional department when he made Where the Wild Things Are. Not the case here. Maybe it’s due to my aforementioned experience in the internet romance world from many years ago, but I felt much more of a connection to the characters and their emotions in Her. Phoenix does a great job, as does Amy Adams as Theodore’s mousy friend who is having her own relationship problems. I wasn’t crazy about Johansson’s voice as Samantha, the operating system, but I got used to it. The music is good, the cinematography is lovely, and Jonze does a nice job of creating a world that seems overly clean/sterile/pristine perhaps due to the lack of human interaction.
At first the plot about the operating systems getting so smart that they feel the need to move on to more important things than serving humans seemed unnecessary, but eventually I saw that as brilliant too. I mean, if we’ve become so bored with actually talking to each other, there’s no reason to think the super-intelligent computers won’t get bored with us too.