A movie about a man falling in love with his Siri is undoubtedly a weird premise. It could have been a total failure, weird and unable to be sympathized with. However, with Spike Jonze at the helm, you're in for a deeply interesting ride.
Her begins in the not-too-distant future where, as we notice rather early on, most people are obsessed with talking on their phones or texting. Not much human interaction is in evidence, with many scenes looking suspiciously like our own familiar subways. Everything, down to the isolation of everyone either talking to invisible people on their headsets, listening to iPod-type devices, texting, or otherwise absorbed into their own world is a clear commentary on our world. The only unusual thing is the cleanness. Things are almost sanitized - clean not only of dirt, but of all residue of real, human contact and relationship.
Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), despite having a whopper of a name, is a symptom in the cog of vast societal dysfunction. He works at a company that produces Handwritten "Meaningful" Notes for those who haven't the time or interest to do so themselves. He mimics a grandson's love for his grandmother in thanking her for a gift, a lover's interest in his spouse overseas, and any number of other situations. Sadly, his love is more authentic than theirs for each other, as he becomes intimately familiar with the details and goings-on of each of his clients' lives. And he yearns for meaningful human contact, despite a failed marriage he cannot quite escape.
It is in the midst of this that he discovers an advertised new Operating System 1 - an artificially intelligent operating system. After answering a rather awkward and humorous set of questions, Theodore finds himself face-to-screen with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), his new OS. She quickly becomes his newest love interest, which leads to numerous problems along the way - predictably. The problems themselves, nevertheless, are not the ones you would think.
Her surprises not only for the subject matter, but for the quality of the acting. There are essentially two actors - Phoenix and Johansson - and only one whom you can see for most of the film. Yet, they are a captivating duo that shows you just how much a single face can convey. Johansson could have easily won an Oscar for her role, despite being ineligible because of not being able to appear on-screen.
The story itself brings up fantastically deep questions of human interaction and our place in the universe, let alone the superficial ones of artificial intelligence. More importantly, Her makes a very clear point about how love is only authentic when it breaks us outside ourselves and becomes more self-giving. It also points the way beyond our modern, technological isolation. Famously, the theologian Richard of St. Victor argued he could "prove" the necessity of multiple persons in God because of the nature of His self-diffusing love. God, if He was truly good and loving, was a Trinity because, for Richard, the Good cannot contain itself. Goodness' essence is the desire, the need to produce another, sharing its goodness; bonum est diffusivum sui - "the good is diffusive of itself." To give you an idea of the movies' depth, one sees clear intimations of this insight in Her. So much so, in fact, that this is its central message.
My Rating: 10 out of 10