Advertisement

Film Review: There's nothing artificial about 'Her'

December 26, 2013|By Andy Klein

In its simplest terms, “Her” — the new feature from director Spike Jonze — is a romance between a man and his computer. Or, to be more accurate, between a man and an artificial intelligence construct that seems to have every attribute of a person except a physical body. It's a dive into the sort of issues that Philip K. Dick wrote about: What's the distinction between a natural-born human and a robot/android/computer programmed to mimic one, and what (if anything) defines reality?

That makes it sound like “hard” science fiction but its constant focus is emotions — emotions that are nearly all familiar to anyone who's felt love, its attendant confusions, and the pain of its loss.

The setting is the very near future — a good guess is something between five and 15 years from now. The cellphones are only slightly different from what we now have; the 3D gaming systems a step or two more advanced. Plying a trade that feels like a throwback to earlier times, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) makes his living writing moving letters for people too sheepish or insecure to express their feelings in words.

Advertisement

Ted is himself in emotional pain, trying to deal with the breakup of his long marriage to hometown girlfriend (Rooney Mara). Luckily, he has also just installed the first release of an operating system unimaginatively called OS1. The software provides the ultimate in user interfaces — an artificial personality constructed with just you in mind. Think of it as Siri on steroids.

Ted requests a female voice and she quickly names herself Samantha. (The never-seen Samantha is played by Scarlett Johansson, who proves she can play just as sexy without a face or body.) Sam has access to everything on his computer and other devices, so she can tailor herself to Ted's personality with incredible “insight” or “intuition.”

Her personality develops so rapidly that she becomes indistinguishable from a real person on the other end of a long-distance romance. Ted is troubled at first by the notion that she's just programmed to be what he wants, but her sense of self begins asserting itself in ways that reproduce both the good and the bad points of real people.

Glendale News-Press Articles Glendale News-Press Articles
|
|
|