Movies: Her

In Spike Jonze's version of the  near future, society is even more wrapped up in technology. People walk around and ride public transit, all the while muttering to themselves and their . . . I dunno. Mobile phones? Mini computers? PDAs of whatever kind? And they hire people to write their love letters for them.

At the same time, everyone dresses like 70s throwbacks, including high-waisted pants for the gents, and moustaches are "in" again. Yick.

So Her ends up being an interesting play in contrasts. Theo (Joaquin Phoenix) is separated from his wife, and his loneliness draws him into video games and late-night porn chats. And then he learns of a new operating system that acts and interacts like a real person. So he gives that a shot.

Anyone who has seen the trailers knows what happens next, and even if you haven't seen the trailers you can take a pretty good guess. Theo's OS names itself Samantha and speaks with Scarlett Johansson's voice. And as she learns and adapts, she and Theo fall in love.

Soon we're hearing of others who are dating their operating systems. Or even others' operating systems. And while the focus remains on Theo and Samantha, the story itself opens up a host of questions about A.I. and its potential versus its limitations. Her is definitely the kind of movie you can discuss and debate after viewing. If you like that sort of thing. (For added fun, drink some wine while watching and then discuss the movie. That's what I did.)

Theo goes on a blind date that starts well but ends badly. He struggles to sign the divorce papers his wife and attorney keep thrusting on him. All these things emphasize the lack of human connection in this future.

I won't say how it ends; I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone who might want to see the movie. But it does seem that films about A.I. lean one of two ways: We fall in love with it and are obliged to redefine what it means to be "human" or what a "relationship" is, or . . . It rises up against us and dominates or tries to kill us. You can probably make an educated guess as to which category Her falls under.

I'll just say I have my doubts about A.I. being able to feel. Mimicry, sure. I think A.I. could learn to fake it, so to speak. But without actual organs, the chemicals that cause feelings and reactions, I would have to lean toward A.I. not having valid "feelings."

Lastly, my lingering question from the movie: How long does the battery last on that thing? I mean, Theo leaves her on all the time. And she doesn't appear to be plugged in. So . . . I guess we've solved battery life problems in the near future?

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