Her is really all about him, him being Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his personalized operating system named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). If this sounds a bit weird, it is, but only for a bit. In this film set in the very near future, true love is as elusive as ever, and a new technology allows people to become intimately entwined with their computers’ operating systems. Lonely Theodore is still recovering from breaking up with his wife (Rooney Mara) and isn’t having a lot of success in the dating world, so when Samantha enters his life through an earpiece and a mic, her ability to see and appreciate him is incredibly attractive.
By day Theodore makes a living writing beautiful letters for strangers, expressing for others what he never could for his ex. At night he plays solitary computer games and occasionally indulges in online sex. He could not be more detached from the world. But with Samantha he connects and starts to feel better about the world and himself. Samantha is no Siri. First off, she has Scarlett Johansson’s sexy voice. But she’s also a sentient being who evolves as the relationship grows, and as she herself learns what emotions are about. And as weird as the concept is, Theodore is not the only one in town who is having a relationship with his OS.
Her is a sweet 21st century meditation on the difficulties and pleasures of human relationships. Like Sandra Bullock in Gravity and Robert Redford in All Is Lost, Joaquin is on screen alone through much of the movie, interacting with the never seen Samantha. His performance alone is worth the price of admission. But this is every bit a Spike Jonze film (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are), somewhat off kilter with its own internal logic, at times very funny, and ultimately uplifting. It would be a great date movie or a good chicks’ dinner and movie night, too. Just don’t tell Siri you’re going.
One word of warning for my Chinese friends: Lots of the film was shot with Shanghai standing in for a future LA, so Theodore walks out the door in Los Angeles and suddenly he is standing on a walkway in Xujiahui or maybe Pudong. It can be somewhat confusing, but you just have to go with it.