We’ve all been there. You’re having a conversation with someone when suddenly they become so engrossed in their smartphone that it’s clear they’d rather be interacting with a device than you. Welcome to the future. Someday we won’t have to deal with other people at all. That ”someday” is the setting of Spike Jonze’s sci-fi love story, Her. It’s an indeterminate future where people dress in high-waisted trousers, wiseass videogame avatars sass us, and a flesh-and-blood romantic spark between two human beings is no longer the only path to intimacy.
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore, a recently divorced loner who falls in love with his phone’s latest operating system. That the OS, which he calls Samantha, has the sultry, pack-a-day voice of Scarlett Johansson only heightens the case for why a man might fall for a piece of software. Her soothing voice, awkward stabs at humor, and breathy, eager-to-please laugh are a balm for his wounded soul. She’s a perfect 10 made from 1s and 0s. Jonze, the merry-prankster visionary behind Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, has once again crafted an idiosyncratic and cockeyed take on the world, giving us the odd sight of a man taking his cell phone on a date to the beach, cooing sweet nothings into its microphone. But the techno-romance isn’t glitch-free, as Samantha starts showing signs of jealousy and worse. Jonze’s satiric, brave-new-world premise is undeniably clever, but it’s also a bit icy emotionally. He clearly has a lot on his mind about how seductive technology is and how much easier life would be if we could insulate ourselves from messy human emotions. But in the end, those ideas end up appealing to your head more than your heart. B