Directed by Spike Jonze
Like most novelty relationships, her is fun for a while but wears out its welcome before slowly coming to an end. At least there are a few pleasant memories and some food for thought.
On the surface, the premise of her is absurd. It's about a guy who dates an operating system. Yep. A computer operating system; the latest and greatest in emotive and predictive software.
The boy in this unlikely pairing is Theodore Twombley (Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator). Every bit as unlikely as his cyber relationship is his occupation. He ghost writes love letters for a dot com called Beautiful Handwritten Letters. As for the OS, she names herself Samantha and she sounds an awful lot like Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers).
The knee-jerk reaction is to think writer-director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich) is playing off of Apple's Siri voice response system. Alas, Jonze had already written the screenplay before Siri entered the universe. It is funny, though, to ask Siri about "her." Those with Siri-enabled iDevices should ask. The response? "No. But a lot of my friends are fictional."
Seriously. Try it out. Ask her on a date and she'll politely decline, adding that it's not possible.
So. Yeah. On the surface, the premise is absurd. But it's obvious enough that her is also a pretty elegant statement about society today. It's about the increasingly cold, tactile-deprived world out there. The drones, totally oblivious to the world around them, walking the streets with their eyes glued to their smartphones. People struggling to make a connection with somebody - or something.
Theodore's going through an excruciatingly long divorce. He's a really nice guy (and a total bad ass when it comes to writing love letters) and he actually enjoyed being married, but he basically wasn't living in the moment enough.
Theodore's world is only slightly removed from the world of today. There's an interesting plot point involving some of Theodore's writing for LA Weekly - Samantha sifts through 1,000 of Theodore's archived articles and deems 80 or so of them worthy of publication. She even finds a company which still prints books and pitches a book idea to them.
There's a vibe of a world that's lost some of its culture and some of its soul as the transition from paper and tactile sensations shifts to touch screens then beyond that to an almost entirely voice-directed interaction with computers.
Theodore's is a world that really is out of touch.
For the most part, Jonze maintains a witty, insightful sense of humor throughout her and captures some great, natural dialogue, particularly as it relates between Theodore and three women in his life - a blind date (Olivia Wilde, Butter), the ex (Rooney Mara, The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo) and an old college friend (Amy Adams, The Fighter, who has never looked more adorable than she does here).
As for Theodore's relationship with Samantha, the operating system, it goes from cute to freakish as Theodore transitions from bored, lonely writer to a co-dependent who relies on his operating system/surrogate girlfriend to challenge him and egg him on to experience more of what life has to offer.
That's ultimately where her bogs down. The themes of loneliness, identity and life's values are explored and repeated in various riffs, but as the movie moves to the two-hour mark, it begins to lose its freshness.
A tighter package, trimmed by maybe 15 minutes, might prove to more impactful. But, as it stands, her is a decent little movie with some solid messages about the world's increasing sense of detachment.
Editor's note: This review was written on a Siri-enabled iPad mini with Retina display. Siri has no made no comment - so far.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.