Imagine a world where we wouldn’t have to put up with our spouse/partner’s disturbing physical outbursts – no stinky farts, clinic no ear-splitting snores, no incessant nagging and hallelujah, never again the scary days of PMS. Enter Spike Jones’s seemingly not too distant yet futuristic techno love saga ‘Her’, about a despondent man, Theodore Twombly (seriously?!)) who’s life dramatically changes when he falls head over heels for his new sophisticated Operating System (Samantha) that’s tied in to a portable smartphone earpiece. Starring the superbly talented Joaquin Phoenix with Scarlet Johanasson lending her sensual and erotic voice, this surreal film has all the sexiness and heartache of a normal romance between real human beings and has charmedaudiences across the globe.
Set in LA, Theo is presented as an oddball nerdy type, with a god-awful moustache and high hitched pants that made me cringe. His job at BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com is to compose special occasion notes for people who are a tad challenged in the art of meaningful conversation and witty prose. But he’s still struggling to come to terms with the feelings of isolation brought on by his failed marriage.Et voila–Samantha of husky tonsils makes a timely, if slightly disembodied, audio appearance. Her super-efficient organizational skills (ahem, she’s a computer) and psychiatrist style of soothing expert advice provide the perfect antidote to his achy breaky heart and before you can yell ‘I, Robot’, he’s in luuvvv. You really can’t blame the man; after all he’s living every man’s Utopian dream, the power to literally switch off his relationship whenever things get too hot and heavy. Even the lack of physical contact doesn’t matter – there’s always phone sex.
Comforting, reassuring and funny to boot, Samantha is like the ideal mate, almost too good to be true. As an added bonus, she seems to develop a soul and fall in love with him as well. They go on dates to the beach and Theo feels liberated enough to share his depressed state of mind, “..sometimes I feel I’ve felt everything I’m going to feel”. They appear to be cradled in high tech cocoons, a cosy feeling that is enhanced by the dreamlike soft lens lighting.
True to form for most reel and real love stories, disaster strikes (c’est la vie folks). Pining for physicality and determined to fully experience all the joys of lovemaking, Samantha boldly sets up a surrogate woman to have sex with Theo on her behalf. The friend has mini-cameras and micropoints taped to her body. I remember having mixed feelings at this stage as to the appropriate reaction – shock, laughter or applause?
Alas, the man is not exactly pleased with the opportunity for free sex (there’s a first) and from here on, their relationship nosedives. Plus, on seeing countless other people in the street murmuring into their phones, Theo realizes that what he shared with Samantha wasn’t unique.
The ending sadly turns mushy and woozy. On the whole, the film, though thoroughly enjoyable, was a touch contrived in certain scenes, while the cutesy and clever lines gave me goose bumps. Having said that, I must confess to identifying more with this offbeat film than some of the regular romcoms one has been tortured with. And Samantha’s voice was smoking.
Amy Adams, who is one of my favourite actors, failed to make her usual impact as Theo’s sympathetic ex-girlfriend – a damp squib. When asked what appealed to him about the movie, Joaquin candidly replied that “..the idea of subjective love is. It’s rare to have a movie where you want to connect with somebody else and communicate some of these ideas”.