Spike Jonze has written and directed a movie called Her about a man who falls in love with his computer's operating system. Keep in mind it is set in a not too distant future so its not like the man is in love with Windows 8...I mean...who is, right? The movie stars Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, and Scarlett Johansson.
Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) spends his days writing letters for people in a sort of ultra personalized Hallmark fashion and, while he is very well versed in expressing other people's thoughts and feelings, he often struggles with his own. With an impending divorce, tenuous friendships, and a non existent dating life dragging down his emotional well being, Theodore finds himself on the precipice of social inactivity. At least until a new operating system, purchased to help keep his daily functionality intact, turns out to be much more than he was expecting it to be.
This new OS contains an AI advanced enough to teach itself to evolve fluidly and independently over time and, after Theodore tells it a few basic things about himself, the new software quickly establishes itself as a virtually living and breathing entity. It, or she I suppose, even names herself Samantha after a microseconds worth of extensive research into the history of names. This super advanced computing power that Samantha comes prepackaged with quickly proves useful to Theodore in more ways than just helping to keep his email organized.
Eventually Theodore and Samantha develop feelings for each other and officially declare themselves to be a couple which, they come to find out, isn't so out of the ordinary given the extreme advances in artificial intelligence technology and the human condition to need companionship in an increasingly impersonal world. Even his best friend Amy (Adams) has developed a fondness for and friendship with her own OS that eventually leads her to make significant changes in her own life. The world is indeed changing and Theodore's interaction with and new found love for Samantha will actually have major implications on how he will live the rest of his life.
Her is a story about falling in love with the one you can never hold on to. Its also a story about how technology will continue to change the way we see and interact with the world around us. Spike Jonze has created a futuristic love story that is more honest than anything occurring in our present time and presents it in a way that is both relatable to our current state of evolution while introducing some very thought provoking ideas about what society may turn in to as it transitions to a more and more virtual sense of reality. While Jonze has assembled a very fine cast to tell his story, the real magic at work here is how he takes that talent and gives them just the right type of guidance to draw out the exact performances he is looking for from each of them.
Sure, the movie is being praised almost universally for all the impressive acting on display although I can not fully get on board with that particular assessment. I'm not saying the acting isn't good, its quite excellent actually, but what I am saying is that credit is due more to the direction and editing prowess of a very talented filmmaker. It would be so easy for this movie to be totally corn ball and laughable but Jonze gets such raw, unaffected performances from his cast that you can't help but believe in every moment. For me, the absolute highlight in this department is what Amy Adams does with her character as she perfectly advances the modern day computer nerd stereotype into this particular future and creates a lovably awkward and confidently grounded personality that is the perfect foil to Samantha's virtually stylized realism.
The film is also set perfectly into a future time that is definitely ahead of what we currently know, but still very believable as far as what could conceivably be accomplished down the road. My one gripe here is that, by the time this story takes place, humans have seemingly wiped out any sense of grit, grime, or harsh reality from the face of the planet and replaced it all with a nearly idealized and comfortable looking society that is a little too clean and tidy for my taste. That being said, this one small negative does nothing to detract from the story that is being told but its still something I can't totally buy into.
Her is a movie that will immediately have an effect on you and will most likely have you thinking about it long after the credits begin to roll. Is this the direction our society is heading when it comes to the technology we will use every day or has Spike Jonze created something so far fetched that it actually makes for a believably futuristic, science fiction love story? These are the things that will keep your head spinning if you allow them to, but you will find much better use of your time in just enjoying a showcase of acting talent being expertly guided by a talented and proven filmmaker who seems to be just now hitting his stride.