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July 31st, 2014

Her ****

 

The most momentous event of the 21st Century is the rise of the machines.

 

Not Terminator-style, of course. I am referring to the smart phones that almost everyone carries around now and that young people won’t stop playing with.

 

Ask a 13-year-old boy whether he’d rather give up his iPhone5 for a year or give up a good friend, it would be “bye-bye, buddy.”

 

Ask a 14-year-old girl whether she’d rather give up her Samsung Galaxy for the rest of high school or dump the boy she says she’s in love with, it would be “bye-bye, boyfriend.”

 

We as a civilization are becoming more social with our phones and less social with other human beings. Some people genuinely love their devices. What happens when they begin to love us back?

 

“Her” takes place a few years in the future. The latest technological marvel is a space-aged operating system called OS1. It listens, learns, feels emotions, and has the voice of Scarlett Johansson. It’s pretty cool.

 

To lonely Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), talking to his OS1 is better than moping around in silence every night and dwelling on his recent divorce. OS1 names herself Samantha and decides that she enjoys chatting with Theodore, too.

 

Naturally, organically, their friendship becomes something more. Theodore begins dating his computer. They fall in love.

 

It sounds like a far-fetched plot-development, but it isn’t. Human beings crave love and companionship and aren’t always picky about where they find it.

 

There are plenty of people out there who have found companionship with a spouse they don’t especially like. And plenty of people who have found companionship in their house full of cats. Writer/director Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation”) forces the audience to accept Theodore and Samantha for who they are: two imperfect beings trying to find love just like the rest of us.

 

The most interesting and surprising part of “Her” is [Spoiler Alert] the way that Theodore and Samantha break up. In the real world, most relationships end simply because the couple was never right for each other to begin with. And after months of fighting, sulking, and cheating, one member of the couple finally realizes it and leaves.

 

But even most great relationships end, too. “Her” shows us why. Complicated, sophisticated people evolve and change as they get older. And though it’s nobody’s fault, sometimes that change leads a formerly perfect couple to grow apart.

 

Johansson does a superb job of expressing the mind-set of a woman/machine who truly loves her man but has moved on intellectually and emotionally and is simply ready to try something new.

 

“Her” is a brilliant film. Spike Jonze has a lot to say about the bittersweet nature of love and its role in our existence.

 

“Her” also did me a favor. In fifteen years, when I learn that a co-worker’s son is getting married to his PC, I won’t judge him. I won’t feel superior to him simply because I have chosen a human bride instead a machine. Heck, maybe I’ll send him a digital copy of this movie as a wedding present.

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