Most people curse at their phones. They are disgusted by what someone else wrote. What someone else dared send them. What some moron just tweeted.
Just as many spew hate at their computer. They resent slow loading times. Error messages enrage them. Shutdowns send them spare…
Modern times have rendered us emotionally susceptible to the whims of technology.
… That said; Not many people actively converse, reason, argue and engage emotionally with their smart devices. Regardless of how smart they are.
Her supposes that, in the not too distant future, that may change.
Theodore ‘Ted’ Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) has a way with words. He pens heartfelt letters across a wide range of emotional situations – all on behalf of others – for a company that specialises in being the unseen Cyrano De Bergerac for those who know not what to say.
It is perhaps ironic then that Ted, this man who always knows just the right words, feels so awkward and unnecessary in the presence of others. Ted only has a couple of friends, and thanks to scars created by a prior relationship, considers his own love life as scorched earth. A broken concept.
Then Ted buys OS1. The OS stands for operating system. A computer program designed to make Ted’s life easier by organising things. All kinds of things. Schedules. Calendars. Playlists. Budgets. But OS1 is far more than that. It is a personal assistant with the capacity to learn, both by communicating with Ted and corresponding with the myriad other OS1 systems across the globe. OS1 dubs herself Samantha, then chooses a base personality type from thousands of alternatives. And Samantha and Ted forge an unlikely relationship, loner and program.
What starts as an understandably stilted working relationship grows ever more personal as Samantha learns more about herself, Ted and humanity. Samantha learns and evolves. She is LeeLoo from The Fifth Element, only without the band aid outfit and strange dialect, and with a far sexier voice (supplied by Scarlett Johannsen.
Samantha interprets her own version of feelings, and ‘Her’ and Ted have lengthy conversations, musings and ruminations that cover all topics.
The conceit of Her might seem unlikely at first. It was to me. Then I took a trip into the city on the train, watching as fourty odd people sat in close proximity, all looking down at the small rectangle in their palm. Not only is it theoretically possible to have an emotional response to technology – it is already happening.
Joy is where you find it. So is sadness.
Her takes things far further than introducing a concept though. It delves. How can someone have a deep and meaningful relationship with a bunch of zeros and ones?
There’s a reason most guys don’t want to grant access to their calendars to their partners. All of the sudden events pop into the calendar. New tasks appear for YOU to do. Your every email, every SMS is scrutinised and interpreted through suspicious mental filters.
What to do when your partner IS your schedule? Can make you miss appointments, provide wrong directions and delete vital information at a whim? How can you win an argument with an entity that is essentially Google? How can you trust someone who can leave you for the “It looks like you’re trying to…” paperclip at any moment. Is relationship counselling a 1800 number in India?
Her manages to sidestep the obvious low rent scenarios, taking the premise seriously and providing genuine food for thought. It is a genuine romantic comedy featuring only one human – but then again, so were my teens…
The small cast helps. Joaquin Phoenix is always believable, sensibly plays Ted as a man who isn’t a total introverted loser, he just prefers company he can fit into his pocket. Amy Adams is the only other ‘live’ actor with a meaningful role, that of Ted’s long time friend, but Scar-Jo is the female star here, even though she is never seen. She is bubbly, funny and yes, sexy enough to make any guy wonder if Siri is reprogrammable. Replace her voice with say, Cameron Diaz, and you suddenly have an unbelievable premise once more.
Director Spike Jonze specialises in creating films where there aren’t films. He made a puppeteer selling trips through John Malkovich’s brain hilarious and inventive. He made a film about a guy writing a script about a woman writing a book make (some) sense. Her is a tad too dry to be entranced by, but it is so original and creative that you cannot help but be constantly impressed and occasionally moved. That’s good too.
Final Rating – 8 / 10. Her is a romantic comedy. But don’t panic. It’s actually good.