Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) lives a solitary life. He buys a new operating system for his computer and the two become friends. This is the future, after all. Soon the system, (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) named Samantha knows about every aspect of Theodore’s life and personality and the two fall in love. They become inseparable and Theodore tells Samantha everything. She learns from his words and experiences along with the banks of stored knowledge to which she has access. She becomes a pseudo person. Theodore even refers to her as his girlfriend. They make love. No, he doesn’t kiss his screen, but they have aural sex. Get your minds out of the gutter. It all seems ideal and that’s what the filmmaker wants us to think. He draws us into Theodore’s world and tries to manipulate us into thinking that loving one’s os is just an alternative lifestyle we should embrace and that Theodore is learning to love. I don’t buy it. I don’t buy it because Samantha learns. She learns from Theodore about what Theodore wants and needs and becomes that. It’s not real love. It’s the affection one might have for a slave who responds to your every whim without question. Samantha is not a lover who has bad breath or hates the books you like or leaves the cap off the toothpaste. Samantha is not his soul mate, she’s a geisha. She lives to serve, always at the ready when Theodore wants to confide in someone or show his sensitive side or go to the beach with a playmate. Instead of a real, yet flawed relationship with an actual woman, Theodore chooses his dream girl fashioned of ether and his own longings. He has not so much fallen in love with an incorporeal entity as he has with himself. I guess I’m supposed to say, “It’s so impressive that he can fall in love with an imaginary being without a single flaw who wants only to please him! Gosh! How wonderful!” Nope. All I can think of are all the people who love this film because it’s soooo romantic. It’s romantic in a bad romance novel sort of way. You know the ones. The poor, but breathtakingly beautiful and brilliant milk maid finds love with the lord of the manor and they must fight the cruel patriarch of the family to be together. Neither has a flaw and they never have to go to the bathroom. Super.
I have other problems with this film too. Spike Jonze wrote and directed Her and set it in a weird vanilla Blade Runner-like future where no one litters and everyone’s a hipster. Jonze’s future looks a lot like what the world would be if Japan bought Disneyland and cloned it. There are a lot of large developed spaces which serve no other purpose than to act as backdrops. No one has a regular job. They’re either writers, filmmakers, or academics and money is no object a la Woody Allen. Theodore lives in a gorgeous high rise apartment with million dollar views and despite his more successful wife’s leaving him, his lifestyle hasn’t changed a bit. Right.
I walked out of this film thinking it was a so/so attempt at a quirky romantic comedy, but after some thought I’ve decided it’s a fairly misogynistic film about a guy who falls in love with himself because it’s easier than being with a real, complex, and flawed woman. It’s not romantic; just depressing.