In a future Los Angeles the operating system on your computer takes care of drudgery, it learns from you, makes suggestions on how to improve your life; it becomes your confidant. And more. For those of us who have worked in Artificial Intelligence this is a huge suspension of disbelief, particularly when even a simple thing like SIRI has been deleted from your smartphone in a fit of technology-induced frustration.
That said and put aside, Her, is both a light-hearted romantic comedy and a serious, sometimes cynical, essay on the nature of relationships. The film turns a blind eye to what constitutes love, not insisting that it follow conventional definitions, nor making a final judgement on whether one person’s version of love is better than another’s. The creators seem to be saying that love is a feeling, the source of that feeling, person or otherwise, does not matter, only the effect it has in the end. While its ends-justifying perspective may appeal to some, particularly romantics, I think some may respond like a Catholic being told there is no G-d.
I laughed a lot in this movie, particularly at the foul-mouthed anime figure providing comic relief for our love-lorn protagonist. I also laughed at the production design – all the men in this film are wearing high-waisted poly pants and black messenger bags – someone had some fun coming up with ‘the look’. Most of the success of the film, its humour and the delivery of its underlying message are due to Spike Jonze’s writing/directing and Joaquin Phoenix’s acting. Phoenix has been the focus of many tabloid antics but there is no denying his acting skills. Here we see him interacting with and reacting to mostly a disembodied voice. He does this so convincingly that the voice becomes the pivotal character, much like Hal in Space Odyssey.
I liked Her and recommend it to those seeking light-hearted escapism or serious philosophical pondering. Considering its duality, I see why it was Oscar-nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay.