In the future according to Spike Jonze, men will wear odd pants without belts. Oh, and people will also fall in love with, and get dumped by, their smartphones' operating systems. The end.
If only it were that easy.
Spike Jonze refuses to tie it all up in a neat little bow for you. At times, "Her" plays like one long Apple ad, at others, it gravely admonishes man's obsession with tech.
Written and directed by Jonze, one message from the film seems crystal clear: there is something mournful about the human experience at present. Surely throughout history this is the case, but now, right now, as millions of photos are being uploaded to Instagram, billions of facebook posts, tweets and countless blog posts about Hollywood or whatever flood laptops, tablets and smartphones, now just seems especially sad and isolating.
Joaquin Phoenix's turn as Theodore Twombly (a bit of a nod to the late Cy Twombly, for all you fledgling artistes) is nuanced and arguably his best work in front of a camera. Scarlett Johansson's faceless, bodyless voiceover fits seamlessly into the melancholy tone of the film.
The most frightful thing here may be that Jonze's portrayal of a near-future dystopia where humans can be found dodging each other at every turn, yapping away on their handheld devices, is not so unlike our daily affairs.
In the first act of the film, we see Twombly living the life of a phantom, wandering from his job as a letter writer to his flat, playing a three-dimensional video game and having cybersex with a stranger via his ear piece.
We go on to learn that Twombly is in the midst of a painful divorce from Catherine (played by Rooney Mara) and seems to long for his days as a writer at LA Weekly.
Twombly then begins his budding romance with the OS of his smartphone, who names herself Samantha. The second act is filled with the joys of being in a relationship that is at first relatively flawless only to descend into the chaos one would expect from this sort of thing.
There is a poignant scene in which Amy Adams' character is talking to Twombly about mortality: "We are only here briefly. And while we're here, I want to allow myself joy."
The device, handheld or otherwise, has given human beings the option to avoid the incredible harm that we inevitably inflict upon each other. But when we become wholly reliant upon devices as our means to experience life, we become somewhat like them: incapable of genuine emotion.
This is the woeful paradox this film draws out in any number of scenes. While not without humor—i.e., the cursing alien child Twombly encounters while playing his favorite video game—what stays with you from this film is a disgust over how technology has become a surrogate for the human experience.
While exquisitely executed performance-wise and in terms of set design, cinematography (shot in both Los Angeles and Shanghai) and pacing, "Her" is more Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" than "When Harry Met Sally."
"Her" doesn't come off preachy so much as remorseful about humanity's head-long plunge into the tech world. In the end, Twombly does find himself cuddled up to "Amy" as the two watch the sunrise atop a highrise.
To add another layer to the absurdity, MTV apparently asked Siri what she thought of the film.
Coming soon to an Apple store near you: the igod and the iSoul.