In the near future – when all of our silly human struggles for need have come to an end – only want remains. Enter Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely man who takes a chance on upgrading his mobile computer to a new operating system: a thinking program that can anticipate his desires (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). What he gets, however, is much more than that, but can a living person and an artificial intelligence have a meaningful relationship when the program evolves past the mere human who purchased it?
Her is an interesting premise for a drama: a man who falls in love with a computer program (let’s exclude the fact that she sounds like the perfect loving version of Scarlett Johanssen for a moment). The story makes sense; anyone whose ever been alone or just lonely can relate, and it doesn’t seem all that weird or implausible due to the lead actors delivering spot-on performances. Where Her missteps is in concluding the plot, conveniently getting all metaphysical (or cyberphysical, if you will) in order to end the film; there were only so many ways this was going to end, so it was this or Skynet, right? While intimacy and exclusivity are the core ideas being explored, very little is taboo, and the film does and exemplary job dealing with each idea respectfully even when – or especially when – it’s the most uncomfortable.
The assumed “future technology” is interesting. With people walking around talking and texting to invisible people, it isn’t far-fetched that a voice-actuated operating system would be pocket-sized and always connected. It’s a world where people hire writers to pen meaningful and heartfelt letters to one another, a world that feels like technology is segregating rather than unifying; is it any wonder humans are feeling disconnected? That said, however, it’s a bit farfetched that any company would release thinking software without some sort of restrictions (three laws safe, anyone?) but forgiving this one bit of ridiculousness allows an actual ending that would otherwise be absent.
The creepiest moments aren’t shunned way from, meeting exactly the kinds of questions people would ask if – or perhaps when – such technology becomes available. The answers are cleverly spun with just the right amount of humor or drama to make viewers feel confident in wanting to know – details would spoil the film, but if you’ve considered watching it, you’re probably already asking those very questions. The plot is fairly simple, but this is a hybrid chick-flick; it’s about the journey, not the destination, and it makes you think in a good way. “Eliza,” you’ve come a long way, baby.
(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)