I am guessing that even the fact I am sitting here typing this review out on a computer is, in itself, a testament to the fact that this piece of technology is an everyday part of most lives in the world. And when we continue to see how much we push forward with the types of technological mediums being thrown at us that often as well, it seems only fitting that Hollywood and one of its quirkiest writer/directors, Spike Jonze, would come up with one of the craziest visions of this tech onslaught and its affect on society through the perhaps NOT so distant future being portrayed in his new film, Academy Award contender “Her”.
In a potentially NEAR future Los Angeles-set story, we find Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a professional personal letter writer (this is needed in the future apparently) in the final stages of a pending divorce from his wife (Rooney Mara) AND his grip on reality. Oh, he’s tried to find a cure for the nagging loneliness he feels, but all his attempts at doing so have been…..less than fulfilling or just plain disturbing ( let’s just say Kristin Wiig manages to one-up Meg Ryan’s performance at the diner in “When Harry Met Sally”, while adding a seriously messed up, yet, not gonna lie, FUNNY twist to things….and we just HEAR her voice). Even with the attempts by others to set him up with a date (played so briefly by Olivia Wilde) or the unsolicited advice of fellow apartment building couple and friends, Amy and Charles (Amy Adams and Matt Letscher), nothing gets it done or fails to materialize. So finally, while out on a walk through a shopping mall…he hears about the newest AI Operating System, the OS1, that is tailored for each person individually and can actually understand you as a person. So as one would guess, Theodore grabs one up and installs it at home.
Honestly, what happens from here is one of the most CRAZY mixes of self-discovery, learning, yearning, experimenting, loving, losing, and just plain creepiness that I have personally seen in a film. Theodore chooses the OS1 to have a woman’s voice, and hence we ARE treated to the wonderfully amazing voice-only performance of the OS1 Samantha (most excellently executed by Scarlett Johansson), whom Theodore finds out fairly fast is a VERY quick learner and doesn’t mind breaking boundaries. She seems to be the answer to EVERYTHING he’s been wanting or can ask for…..from just being that gentle voice to wake him up in the morning, to helping him organize things from his email to his thoughts and attitudes about relationships and his soon-to-be ex-wife, to just wanting to learn herself about what it is to be human. And as this progresses, things get deeper than he ever expected….to the point where he is genuinely in LOVE with this automated miracle. And as he reveals this to his small circle of friends, they actually ACCEPT this, which is kinda freaky to me. And once intimacy is brought up, I will only say that IT was the aspect of this whole thing that brought the 3-4 scenes of this film I could have done without completely. As Samantha learns more and more about what it is to feel and experience human life, it leads to the kinds of expectations and commitments one seeks in a relationship, even coming complete with jealousy, misunderstandings, fights, arguments, apologies, making up etc, etc, etc. And ultimately, Samantha reveals an aspect of her own existence that ends up throwing the whole thing into chaos and confusion, while also causing Theodore to truly (and FINALLY) look at what this whole thing is really saying about his need for companionship and where it should be found.
It is one WILD ride, and Phoenix just NAILS the emotional roller coaster that is Theodore Twombly. I mean, I spent a lot of time truly feeling for the guy, maybe even relating to him a bit. Phoenix does have a knack for great performances (see his turns in “Gladiator“, “Signs“, “The Village“, “Ladder 49“, and “Walk The Line“), and I can say this one does rank up there, though it could be seen as a bit more subdued than those other parts. The supporting cast is solid as well. Johansson does steal the show, though, having to emote via voice in a way that is compelling, passionate, and believable, which she does marvelously. But it’s the lingering sense of creepiness about the whole concept that was present throughout. This film could most certainly be seen as a commentary about HOW reliant we are on technology, and that we spend SO much time with it, that IS the idea of ultimately falling in love with something like this hyper-intelligent, learning, and intuitive AI as far-fetched as we would initially think? This is definitely NOT a film for everyone, and I cannot see viewing it again myself. But, as always, this is for YOUR consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!