A lonely man who is in the final stages of his divorce falls in love with his phone’s Operating Software.  That’s a hell of a logline for “Her,” isn’t it?  It hooked me, that’s for sure; and I’m glad it did.

Joaquin Phoenix plays a sensitive writer who makes a connection with a new OS that has artificial intelligence and voiced by Scarlett Johansson. We’re talking one hell of an A.I. here, because Johansson quickly takes on human traits, learning and evolving at a very fast rate.  What starts as amusement for Phoenix evolves into something deeper as he converses with Johansson every day, much the same way as a man talks to a woman he clicks with on a regular basis, until they become friends and, in some cases, the relationship becomes romantic.

I know, I know, you’re wondering how the hell a person — a normal person — can fall in love with an OS?  Probably the same way a person can fall in love with character in a book or a movie.  Probably the same way a person can love his pets as if they were his child.  People are emotionally complex, and our ability to connect deeply goes beyond human beings.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Phoenix is playing a video game, and he encounters a tiny, Pillsbury doughboy-looking character who curses like I do when I’m stuck in traffic.  Phoenix is stumped, not knowing how to deal with this foul-mouthed character.  Until Johansson offers advice that allows Phoenix to advance further into the game.  Hey, all girlfriends should be so helpful with their man’s video game struggles!

Another memorable, movie moment from “Her” is the scene when Phoenix is having a late night, sex chat online.  It quickly gets weird — which is usual for cyber sex (I know, I’ve had them!) — and outrageous when his partner, voiced by Kristen Wiig, wants Phoenix to pretend he’s strangling her with a dead cat’s tail as they are having cyber/phone sex!

As for my most memorable, movie moment of “Her”…that is the scene when Phoenix and Johansson have their first fight.  This is when I started to view Johansson as real, instead of an A.I. computer software.  The hurt and confusion in her voice will sound familiar to anyone old enough to have had a romantic relationship.  It was easy for me to believe that Phoenix was having a telephone conversation with a real woman.

“Her” surprised me in a few ways.  I expected “Her” to be some quirky, goofy, love story; but it simply is a love story.  A very well-written, well-directed (compliments to writer/director Spike Jonze), and well-acted movie about how relationships start and evolve.  I also thought I figured out what the ending would be at the start of the 3rd act, but I was completely wrong about that; and that’s a good thing, because being able to telegraph a movie’s ending sucks.  Last, I didn’t expect “Her” to stay with me after the movie ended.  You know, when a story lingers in your mind long after you have watched or read it. Those are the best types of stories.

–M

Advertisements