January 10, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: Digital love finds human connection in 'Her'

Joaquin Phoenix develops a strong bond with a self-aware computer. (Warner Bros.)

At what point intelligence? At what point love?

At what point does physical connection give way to psychological? At what point does being human cease to matter? And at what point does it become an unwanted anchor?

These questions and many more are raised in the delightfully entertaining, if slightly unnerving, “Her,” written and directed by Spike Jonze, who adapted and directed “Where the Wild Things Are” and directed “Adaptation” and “Being John Malkovich.” Jonze is always visually arresting and “Her” is full of odd angles and flawless production design, but as a film it’s more concerned with the metaphysical than the physical.

And how could it not be when its most interesting character doesn’t even have a body? That would be Samantha, voiced into full life by Scarlett Johansson in one of the decade’s most memorable performances, body or not.

In a not-too-distant future, a lonely fellow named Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) buys himself a new handheld computer that’s supposed to be self-aware; he turns it on and Samantha comes into being. She proves helpful and witty, and soon she and Theodore are best friends.

And then they become more than that. Theodore walks through life showing Samantha the outside world, the two chatting constantly, they even go on a double date with a guy (Chris Pratt) Theodore works with. There on the picnic blanket — it’s guy and girl, guy and operating system.

Jonze fills the film out with Theodore’s real-life friend Amy (Amy Adams), who has an operating system pal of her own; his ex-wife (Rooney Mara), who’s appalled by his new relationship; and myriad lovely touches. But mostly this is a question of compatibility: Can these two different systems, human and tech, find bliss? The question lingers.



Rated R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity

Running time: 126 minutes


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