I am just fascinated with the rate of development of how we use machines. It’s not that we’re using more of them, it’s that computers are getting better to our responses. Siri on my iPhone is always a fun thing to play around with. I’ve given it plenty of instructions like which Michael Jackson song to play or which way to the nearest Japanese restaurant. But it is curious to request things like, “Tell me a story” (it will do that!) or “Does god exist?” (it also answers that). I may not be the biggest user of the voice recognition technology, but I have learned that my phone has started to adapt better to my questions.
Now as computers become more intelligent, how close are we to giving machines a full conscience? And if machines can think for themselves, are they allowed to have rights? Luckily, I don’t think we are at that point just yet. We are the testing grounds for a future generation’s artificial intelligence. All we can communicate with now are other people, but it’ll be interesting how we engage in conversations with computers. Her examines just how far a relationship with a computer can go.
In the near future, Theodore Twombly (played by Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely writer who had just gotten through a long relationship with his childhood sweetheart, Catherine (played by Rooney Mara). Though he seems to be doing all right with his job as a letter writer, he can’t seem to accept that the life he loved before is over. He hasn’t even signed his divorce papers.
Through a whim, he purchases a new operating system with artificial intelligence. He sets up the system to understand that he’s not social and wants a female voice. What he gets is Samantha (played by Scarlett Johansson).
Unlike most operating systems, Samantha is based upon hundreds of personalities to create a computer with a morality. Theodore is fascinated about Samantha learning everything and bonds over themes of life and love. After a one-night fling with her (yes, with Samantha), Theodore decides to put himself in a romantic relationship with his operating system. In the meantime, his friend Amy (played by Amy Adams) has just divorced her husband and she too develops a relationship with the OS that he left behind.
They both contemplate whether relationships with machines are acceptable and whether they can be done.
Any film that has director Spike Jonze behind the story makes me excited. He’s the kind of storyteller that isn’t afraid to take chances and really push with how much humans are capable of.
Her is the kind of science-fiction movie that I’ve been waiting for; something progressive, but dystopian at the same time. There is clearly a theme of how much we are attracted to our technology like smartphones and such. It’s trying to show us of what the next step in evolution is in that favor. I like how this movie establishes a brilliant device; just that it was put into the wrong hands.
I will also say that the science-fiction aspect is a small part. This is really a romance. And an inventive, brilliant one it is. Her is smart, funny, and sweeter than most typical Valentine’s Day junk I’ve seen. Spike Jonze has a knack for picking great actors.
Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, and Rooney Mara all are perfectly fitting in their roles as different people going through relationships, and have different opinions about computer relationships. The big steal here is Scarlett Johansson who manages to bring a lot of personality all through voice. Yes, there’s no hologram, animated character or even text on a computer trying to be her. It’s all just her voice from the machine that would make any man fall for this computer.
I’ll give this five artificial intelligent operating systems out of five. Her is a new kind of romance that may seem silly on paper, but has managed to bring a lot of philosophical ideals on love. This is a movie that people will talk about for decades.
Robert T. Nickerson is a film critic. His work can be seen at mastermindfilmproductions.com.