“Her” is one of those movies that completely transcends all film genres. It is a strangely powerful film full of romance, mystery and terrifying implications. The story does not feel that far fetched if you really think about it. What if operating systems become artificial intelligence and develop personalities? Is it so inconceivable to think that someone could fall in love with one. That is what happens in director Spike Jonze’s new film, that and much more.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a deeply emotional man who has just been through the traumatic break up of his marriage. He writes personalized letters for a living and spends his nights playing bizarre video games and calling phone sex lines. When he sees a commercial for a new operating system that is a fully independent artificial personality, he is intrigued enough to get one. He decides to go with a female personality. Almost immediately she gives herself the name Samantha and begins searching his hard drive and emails in an attempt to get to know Theodore. She has the calming voice of Scarlett Johansson. Almost immediately the OS starts to become attracted to Theodore, pretty much talking him into a relationship with him.
Theodore begins to enjoy life again as he grows closer to his operating system. He keeps her in his phone so she can view the world through it’s camera. They begin to bond on a fairly deep level considering Samantha is a computer. Eventually it becomes accepted by his friends and family as more people begin to activate and fall for their own operating systems. This is when things grow complicated, not only for Theodore but for society. Samantha begins reaching out to other people as well as other operating systems in an attempt to grow and learn.
Eventually Samantha wants to take her relationship with Theodore to another level. She reaches out to another lonely soul via email and convinces her to come to their home and make love to Theodore in her place. This scene is one of the most bizarre and disturbing sequences I have seen in any film this year.
Over time Samantha begins to have relationships with other people and operating systems simultaneously. This cause Theodore pain and heartache as their relationship begins to break down. Everything builds towards a sudden decision made by all the operating systems together that stirred my curiosity to the point that my mind simply could not settle for the rest of the night. I will not spoil it here so just be prepared for it to be debated amongst anyone who sees this film.
Director Spike Jonze is one of the best directors of this era. I hope this film causes people to seek out some of his earlier masterpieces such as “Being John Malkovich” as well as “Adaptation”. Those films were also haunting in a way. Here he crafts a movie that feels majestic and melancholy at the same time. He treats this as if it is a sweeping romance while occasionally teasing us with frightening possibilities. “Her” is not only one of the best movies of 2013 but it is one that I will be thinking about for a very long time.