Spike Jonze’s logical next-step in the sci-fi romance genre, see’s Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) fall in love with his operating system (or OS), voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Theodore is recently separated from his wife, but is still coming to terms with it; shown by his reluctance to sign the divorce papers. In a world not far from the one we live in now. I like to think of it as we’re in Apple’s iOS 6 world while Her is only iOS 7. As mirrored by the much more playfully coloured set designs. Theodore is already at terms with faux emotion as he works for fictional company BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com. As a writer he fakes genuine emotions for people and is sometimes pivotal in flourishing of relationships.
Jonze eases us well into the world showing Theordore turning to audio online personal ads, to temporarily relieve his loneliness. Then quickly showing us the risks of interactions with strangers you meet online. Online in this this future seems to be a permamnent state of being. With an ear pod constantly in, Theodore can track his day to day business without looking at a portable device, with the help of an OS not unlike current forms. It’s the introduction of a emotionally and personally intuitive OS that leads to the meat of the movie.
Theodore quickly goes through the set up (the hesistance speaking volumes.) He is then introduced to Samantha, voiced so well (by Johannson) that as an audience we can feel a physical presence from her virtual performance. This is integral in the seamless interactions. At first the relationship starts stunted as Theo comes to grips with what is happening. As his comfort grows so too does the relationship.
There is a few things at play in this film. There is the social commentary, that at times is specifically referred to, which is slightly problematic. There is also the exploration of love itself. The film is effective at reflecting our ability to truly lose yourself in someone. Those hours spent lying around just talking or going for walks, where silence together is not an issue. The film also looks at our the human need to have friendships and relationships and human interaction without the neative consequences.
If you’re looking for a date movie this is not the one… Unless you can take solace in each others arms of how ultimately love is an imagined emotion. Yes this OS is set-up to be his dream girl intuitive to eventually be perfectly tailored for the “user.” As she grows, she grows exponentially. We see her begin to interact with other OSs. A philoshopher, Alan Watts, recreated by scientists as an OS is on of the important ones. Although this is an unlikely situation not exacltly everyday. However, the euphoria, the joy, the pain and the fear everyone can relate to.
Theodore’s inability to connect with human’s easily is played out in an awkward blind date played by Olivia Wilde. The awkward close-up angles account for that. The conversation is flowing but forced, the evntual turn of the date seems to come from nowhere.
The performances are accurate at reflecting us and well grounded in their world. The look of the film is capturing and subtly bright. This sci-lo-fi romance is more touching, reflective and thought provoking than usual Valentine’s Day releases.
Bram Trevor Welch