Directed By: Spike Jonze

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde, Scarlett Johannson, Chris Pratt, and Kristen Wiig

Man falls in love with his personal assistant.  Stranger things have happened in human history.  When that personal assistant is digital and can take no physical form whatsoever, things get a little more interesting.  This is exactly the situation with which we're presented in Spike Jonze's Her.  With the advent of Siri and other technologies in recent years, a quirky romance of this nature was bound to happen on the big screen at some point.  I just never expected one of the world's sexiest women to voice "Her".  That being said, Spike Jonze's take on romance in the digital age poses many more questions than it answers and serves up some interesting commentary on our disconnected society.

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is one lonely soul.  He makes a living writing touching letters for other people saying the things they don't know how to say.  Stalling on signing the divorce papers with his soon-to-be ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) for more than a year now, our letter writer actually doesn't know how to articulate his thoughts on their failed marriage.  While out shopping one day, Theodore stumbles across a new operating system called OS1 and purchases it.  Upon installation, Theodore is probed by some artificial intelligence software to find the right personal assistant for him.  The result is a female OS named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson).  With her bright, cheery voice, she quickly becomes Theodore's friend.  Eventually, they become lovers even though Samantha is an operating system and not an actual person.  Meanwhile, Theodore's longtime friend Amy goes through her own ups and downs in her relationship.

Spike Jonze is a director who continuously pushes the envelope by putting together thought-provoking films, and his latest movie Her definitely fits this bill.  Before I even tackle the complex romance presented by the film, he's given us a glimpse of what our technological future may just look like in the next five to ten years.  Having recently purchased a PS4, I've been getting well-acquainted with my new gaming console, including the voice controls and the motion sensor.  As I watched Jonze's Her, I couldn't help but think that the futuristic Los Angeles he gives us is the natural next step.  The little red book Theodore carries around is just a futuristic smartphone, while his earpiece may foreshadow the next generation of Bluetooth devices.  The interactive video games Theodore plays are just the next step with motion sensor technology beyond what the PS4 and Xbox One provide in our current market.  All in all, the futuristic Los Angeles Jonze develops leaves me very curious as to what lies in store for our society in the coming years.

With all of this wonderful technology, Theodore is somehow lonely.  With all of these ways to connect with people and information, he's somehow disconnected.  Interestingly enough, his job of writing letters for others is essentially helping people connect with words.  While it's certainly a display of Jonze's inventive filmmaking, Her may offer some pretty sharp criticism of where we're going in this digital age as a society.  With smartphones, tablets, and other powerful gizmos, there are a million ways for us to interact.  More often than not, they're very impersonal and actually limit human contact.  As such, we've all become rather isolated.  In a strange way, Spike Jonze offers a powerful reminder to reach out and touch one another with Her.

Her poses lots of questions about technology and society, but it poses even larger questions about the notion of romance.  After watching the film, the largest question that loomed in my mind is about how an operating system can climax.  While there is an obvious emotional component, orgasms are physiological responses by definition.  There's no programmer in the world who can code this into an operating system.  Nonetheless, this notion of Samantha achieving an orgasm in the film is emblematic of the eccentric romance Jonze is crafting here.  While Theodore once again learns how to love another person, operating system Samantha is learning how to love in general.  It's a fundamentally perplexing concept that raises countless questions.  At the same time, it's totally understandable.  After all, many people have fallen in love with Siri on their iPhones.  This is just an unusual extension of that.

Headlining this tender romance, we have Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson.  For his part as Theodore Twombly, Phoenix delivers a soulful performance as this sensitive, insightful human being.  He's a lonely man scarred by his failed marriage who is unwilling to mend his broken heart until Samantha comes along.  Though offering an emotionally guarded character, there's a surprising warmth to his performance that's undeniable.  This nuanced emotional role is an interesting follow-up to his work in The Master last year and once again demonstrates just how versatile Phoenix is as an actor. 

For her part as Samantha, Scarlett Johansson has perhaps achieved something that no other vocal actor or actress has achieved before.  As this operating system, she has no physical form and no representation in the film other than the earpiece Theodore uses to chat with "her".  Still, she manages to build a multi-dimensional character with a myriad of personal challenges.  Johansson somehow gives us this happy, cheerful being who's curious about the world that's not around "her".  She also gives us this emotional being who can love and be loved.  Most importantly, she gives us this dissatisfied being who grapples with what it means to exist but not be able to reach out and touch another being.  All in all, Johansson's raw, fragile performance is a remarkable milestone in vocal acting.

Her definitely will push people out of their comfort zones.  It's an endlessly innovative film that challenges our notions of romance, intimacy, and connectedness.  Spike Jonze's latest film will leave you thinking long after the credits have stopped rolling.  Jonze, Phoenix, and Johansson have done some really good work here.  Her gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.