Spike Jonze’s new film, Her, covers the strange and unlikely romantic relationship between Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) and his operating system. It has been a critical success and aside from a few extremely uncomfortable scenes, was one of the better movies I have seen this year.
Although the film is essentially about a man being in love with his computer, I did not find the plot unbelievable at all. In fact, the only part I was skeptical of was that Joaquin Phoenix would ever have a chance to go home with Olivia Wilde when he’s rockin’ a pedophile mustache that would give Jerry Sandusky the creeps. But the idea of someone falling in love with their operating system is not entirely far-fetched. I mean, personally, I think SIRI is a total B-word, but give her the ability to feel, learn, joke, love, and Scarlett Johansson’s voice… we’ve got ourselves a whole different kind of situation.
Even if you could never see yourself having phone sex with Scarlett’s bodiless voice, I am sure you can at least buy one of the underlining metaphors of the film. The film basically reflects the increasing disengagement that us humans have with our physical surroundings and the way we are dependent on technology. How many times have you seen multiple people sitting next to each other but all fully immersed in their iPhones? And how often have you been to a concert where, instead of watching the show, everyone is snapchatting it to someone else? We get so caught up in the thousands of conversations we have online or via text message, that we forget about our actual lives. In fact, this metaphor becomes even more apparent when the operating system herself isn’t even satisfied with one conversation.
SPOILER ALERT: The operating system ends up maintaining some astronomical amount of simultaneous conversations and even falling in love with a number of them, which she confesses to Theodore Twombly towards the end of the film. Her does a good job of subtly explaining how we are rapidly losing our interpersonal skills and in a not-so-distant-future might be able to get by without any real human contact whatsoever.
Phoenix does a great job of getting the audience to generally feel his emotions and pain and you find yourself rooting for the success of his unusual relationship. The operating system, Samantha, breaks your heart with her Pinocchio-esque need to be a real human. She feels that the only difference between her and a human is her body, or lack thereof and she wants so badly to be able to touch and feel Theodore, but sadly she cannot.
It may seem ridiculous, but midway through the film I actually started to see the operating system as a human and it really got me thinking. If an artificial intelligence has the capacity to learn, and feel and even have original thoughts, why couldn’t you consider it a human? It was Descartes, one of the most famous philosophers of all time, who said, “Cogito Ergo Sum,” which translates to “I think, therefore I am.” Can Samantha, the operating system not think? Is she not self-aware? Did she not name herself Samantha!? You may argue that the difference between her and a human is the five senses. Well Samantha can’t taste, smell or touch but she can hear and see through the microphone and camera lens of Theodore’s cellphone. Would you say that a person born without a sense of taste or smell is any less human?
Now, I am not here to say that the operating system is a human or not, but I was certainly impressed with the way Her made me question what it is to be human. Despite me ruining a solid portion of the plot, if you have not seen it already, I highly recommend the film. If not for the poetic dialogue, the exceptional acting, or seeing Amy Adams in an almost unrecognizable role, then see it for some information about an innovative new use for dead cats.