It is unusual, even in the age of new artistic mediums engendered by high-speed silicon chips, pixelated digital technology and computer-generated imaging, to witness a story that not only feels like something new, but appeals also to the mind as an intellectual originality. Spike Jonze’s new film “Her”, playing now in Philadelphia theaters, emotes this, more as a kind of connotation. The originality is a natural growth from the once-imagined but now actualized reality upon us: sentient artificial intelligence. One really sees a new story, new form from old- even the age-old story of two people falling in love and trying to maintain a relationship. The suggestion is ever-present, posed as a question: is technology changing not only the way we learn and navigate each other’s (friends’, lovers’, spouses’) lives and relationships to each other, but our very desire for communication and connection in general?
The technology surrounds us, and is in every scene of this film, practically- video games creating artificial worlds, often more exciting and interesting than this one. Computers helping us compose letters for others’ lives and loved ones; communication by proxy. Divorces reminding us of the ephemeral nature of connection and romance; how all we really have is now, and whether we choose to appreciate the moment, or not. Artificial intelligence (of the benign sort) reminding us of our surrogate dissonance between mind and body, how our minds move forward and create kingdoms that outlast the flesh, connected to our Source. There is so much going on in this film, so much that one almost catches one’s breath in overwhelming pleasure and difficulty of thought.
Joaquin Phoenix is extraordinary. Amy Adams saves the film from science fictional abstraction with her grounded friendliness, reconnecting Joaquin’s character to reality in the midst of the tight-rope of computer science and energized matrices. The real stand-out here is the director and writer, Spike Jonze, who either knowingly or unwittingly has crafted a film that will outlast all of us; something a century from now people will look back on and say “Wow- he knew what was coming!” Above all: Scarlett Johansson rocks the entire work with her voice, solely her vocal gymnastics, conveying all the wonder and lighthearted genuineness of a child’s mind’s growing, learning, loving. She may be the artificial intelligence here, but it is we who are left speechless in Her naturalistic wake.