Even though the tag line for Her is a Spike Jonze love story, and the film opened on Valentine’s Day, the film holds this scary mirror to the state of relationships in a time when we are all completely connected and yet in our own little digital islands. Theodore Twombly writes letters for those who find it difficult to express themselves. Going through a painful divorce with his childhood sweetheart, Catherine, Theodore decides to buy a talking operating system with artificial intelligence. Theodore bonds and falls in love with the OS, who names herself Samantha. The story goes through all the romcom conventions but with the little differences that come with virtual reality.
Her feels like a Philip K. Dick story where the future is just like the present but for the little big differences. And that distant familiarity is comforting as well as unsettling. The music is ethereal and the production design (Jonze shot in Shanghai for a futuristic Los Angeles) is otherworldly.
The film got five Oscar nominations, including best picture and writing. The nomination for writing is well deserved. It is sharp, warm and witty with lines such as “Love is a form of socially acceptable insanity.” It is surprising that there was no acting nomination for Joaquin Phoenix. His Theodore Twombly is so brilliantly realised, that you care deeply for him. The others in the cast from Amy Adams as Amy, Theodore’s friend to Rooney Mara as Catherine are equally good. Scarlett Johansson gives a virtuoso performance as the voice of Samantha.
Her actually works as a date movie and also as a meditation of our lives chained to the digital world, where we get not just our entertainment but also our emotional gratification from bits and bytes rather than flesh and blood.
Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Scarlett Johansson
Storyline: A lonely man falls in love with his OS
Bottomline: Digital opium for the masses