Somewhere in the not-so-distant future humans have tackled the issue of overpopulation by inventing bodiless AI programs with devilishly sexy voices. The Operating System, or OS, is never too busy for you, is always eager to help, and will laugh at all your jokes be they funny or not. Each OS is perfectly programmed to fit their owner, so much so it’s a wonder people still bother with human best friends. Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) purchases his OS to help cope with loneliness and post-divorce depression. It’s no wonder he can’t bear to be away from “her” since this program of constant care and devotion says “good morning” in Scarlett Johansson’s voice. How could the programmers not predict the consumer might fall in love (and I mean a slightly more profound love than the one I share with my smart phone) with the program if they designed it to sound like ScarJo was at your beck and call? I can hardly blame Theodore for falling for it/”her”, although I can raise an eyebrow at the way he handles these new emotions.
It’s a bit awkward at first, accompanying Theodore on dates with his OS. The program – named, Samantha – “sees” through his camera phone, and usually rides along in his shirt pocket. Theodore communicates with “her” through a hands-free earpiece, which gives me total faith in the notion that 30 years from now we’ll all be walking around seemingly talking to ourselves like schizophrenics. Her builds the relationship between Theodore and his app gradually, giving you enough time to adjust to each new phase of their relationship and get over the Stepford Wives feeling that this is all a little weird. Each stage is a new chapter in the not-yet-published self help book, Is Your Laptop Taking Advantage of You? Chapter 3: Dinner Dates. Chapter 4: Why Double Dating Isn’t Easy. Chapter 5: Intimacy… Theodore takes the phrase “I love my MacBook” to a WHOLE new level.
Here’s where I have to applaud Scarlett Johansson. She conveys vivacity, warmth, sarcasm, distress, anger, and so much more through her voice alone. Joaquin Phoenix is also wonderful, but he has the use of his eyes and body to show timidity, doubt, confusion, etc. Johansson can do it in a breath.
Once you get past the message that we’re doomed to a future of love in a box, crafted by eHarmony experts, Her is primarily an artsy film. It’s all about growth. Some scenes have long, spaced-out stares, framed within a world of soft, curving lines, accent walls, and studio-lighting. When Theodore is happy he spends time in the sun or the light. When he’s conflicted he wanders around inside or in the shadows. Samantha is designed to open Theodore’s eyes to the world, and the film tries to do the same for the viewer. It’s a beautifully decorated movie with a calming (although unconventional) story. It takes a clean, intellectual setting, fills it with emotionally damaged characters, and proceeds to knock on the sterile walls we’ve built around ourselves like a prison. Her is weird, sensitive, an uncomfortable glimpse into our future, and an 8/10.