It’s not that weird to suggest a guy could fall in love with Scarlett Johansson just from hearing her sultry voice alone. Even if Scar-Jo is only the voice of operating system Samantha in Her, she is still sexy as hell; funny, inquisitive and doting all at once. Spike Jonze’s latest film as writer/director envisions a not too distant future where people could realistically fall in love with their artificially intelligent operating systems without worrying about the social stigma of appearing to talk to themselves in public.
Joaquin Phoenix plays unlucky in love Theodore who has lost the love of his life (Rooney Mara) and is now going through a tricky divorce. Working as a greeting card writer, he conjures and delivers beautifully written bits of prose to lovers who can’t be bothered writing the words for themselves. In Jonze’s future, real relationships have become as meaningless as these false communications written by countless writers like Theodore in call centre like offices. People roam the streets with ear pieces stuck in their brains for making contact with people who are not actually there with them. Everyone is mad; everybody is talking to the voices in their heads. When Theodore gets his new artificially intelligent operating system Samantha, his relationship seems little different to anyone else’s in this strange but familiar new world.
Theodore tries dating, phone sex and confiding in friends but no one understands him like Samantha. With access to his emails, contacts and the ability to learn, laugh and share every moment with him, Samantha and Theodore appear to be every bit as in love as anyone else. She may be there simply to serve him but she grows with him, explores and evolves with him and appears to fall in love with him. It is hard not to fall in love with selfless Samantha. She shows signs of developing clear feelings; fantasising, getting excited and developing an infectious personality. She is bubbly and fun and as she is learning about the world, she shares her joy with the jaded Theodore.
Phoenix is completely believable as Theodore; a love sick puppy who just wants to feel what he felt with his wife before their divorce. Johansson manages to make a character completely convincing despite no on screen presence. Jonze explores the relationship, the repercussions and the possibilities of the idea through a brilliantly clever script filled with wit, warmth and whimsy. From the idea of OS surrogates to the realisation of future video games, Jonze’s future is perfectly detailed and credible. With Amy Adams as an unhappy in her relationship neighbour and Olivia Wilde as a terrifying date, it is no wonder that Theodore thinks sticking to dating his operating system will bring happiness.
Falling in love may be, as one character says, a form of socially acceptable insanity but it’s ultimately impossible not to love every bit of Her.