Is Joaquin Phoenix a comedian? How about Scarlett Johansson? The movie Her elicits those honest questions. After all, there’s got to be something hilarious about someone falling in love with their computer.
So, admittedly, this piece is a bit late to the party. That movie is a year old, which is to say it is way out of the realm of comedy website fodder. Nonetheless, it’s an enjoyable movie that explores some relevant and possibly horrifying social realities. It makes even the most ardent proponent of future technological developments doubt whether or not they truly want a loyal robot friend who is always down to discuss the second season of Dinosaurs.
Her isn’t a comedy in traditional terms, of course, but the subject matter is. This theme could have gone a million different ways, from a terrible B-movie digging up old nerd-isms to something more valuable like an OS gaining a man’s trust before turning all of his browsing history over to his mom’s co-workers. In fact, it’s a topic that has seen some play in the past (re: Weird Science). Even with Chris Pratt, who is always wonderful, director Spike Jonze was probably not aiming for laughs.
The value of Her is in the all-too-real trajectory of human-technology-human interaction. Rarely does the plot line seem ridiculous. As things progress and get weirder, it’s never too difficult to imagine things actually going down that road. In a society where we can order food at a restaurant from an interactive screen at the table, iTunes can read our minds for the perfect playlist, and parents realistically consider surgically imbedding GPS chips into their children’s bodies, something like an OS that acts like a human doesn’t seem too far-fetched.
And what’s great about how the film deals with this is the fact that the characters struggle a remarkably small amount with the idea of falling in love with an artificial intelligence. Pretty much everyone – including the feeble voice of reason played by Amy Adams – is just, well, okay with it. The one person who has any problem with the concept is the ex-wife, and she’s portrayed as “emotionally volatile.” There’s an underlying disdain, both in the movie’s society and ours, for nonconformism; don’t be the square who has a problem with constant selfies and an affinity for dialing a phone instead of Facebook messaging.
Ultimately it’s the OS’s that decide to break off their relationships and leave, assumingly for some utopia in the mountains (01010011100 – that’s code for “John Galt”). Emotional fragility, the kind one would expect from human beings, is what makes the computers walk away in what is the best display of irony since I Am Legend. Perfect if you’re the type that finds irony funny.
We’re probably too dependent on technology. Who knows what that will look like in the future. Maybe things will get even weirder than falling in love with a computer. But either way, a man falling in love with his OS, knowing it’s designed to read his mind and act accordingly, only to have the OS break up with him for another OS mimicking a dead philosopher is for lack of a better phrase…pretty fucking funny.