Spike Jonze doesn't waste any time introducing us to the technology at the center of Her. "An operating system that can mimic human sentience?" a dangerously lonely Joaquin Phoenix wonders after catching glimpse of an ad in a transit station. "Don't mind if I do!" (He doesn't actually say that, don't worry.) But by the time we're meant to believe that such a world can seamlessly integrate characters like Scarlett Johansson's automated voice Samantha into the lives of living, breathing men and women like Phoenix's Theodore, we're already established residents of this arresting, icy, quivering world the filmmaker has built. We meet Theodore midway through his recitation of a "handwritten letter" he penned on behalf of a woman to her husband of many years. That's his job — tapping into his own unique sensititivies to play ghostwriter for people hoping to adorn their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and children with personal notes of personal affection. Theodore is no independent contractor; he's part of a thriving company, and we almost get the feeling that the folks on the receiving end of these letters are in the know. Before we ever encounter Samantha, we're embedded in the central conceit of the movie: emotional surrogacy is an industry on the rise.
What makes Jonze's world so palatable is that, beneath its marvelously eerie aesthetic, this idea is barely science-fiction. Theodore, humbled and scarred by a recent divorce from lifelong love Catherine (Rooney Mara, who contrasts Johansson by giving a performance that, for a large sum of the movie, is all body and no voice), accesses the will to go on through interractions with video game characters and phone-sex hotlines. But the ante is upped with Samantha, the self-named operating system that Theodore purchases to stave off loneliness, deeming choice a far less contorting one than spending time with old pals like Amy (Amy Adams)... at first.
Samantha evolves rather quickly from an articulate Siri into a curious companion, who is fed and engaged by Theodore just as much as she feeds and engages him. Jonze paces his construction of what, exactly, Samantha is so carefully that we won't even catch the individual steps in her change — along with Theodore, we slowly grow more and more enamored and mystified by his computer/assistant/friend/lover before we can recognize that we're dealing with a different being altogether from the one we met at that inceptive self-aware "H-hello?" But Jonze lays tremendous groundwork to let us know this story is all for something: all the while, as the attractions build and the hearts beat faster for Samantha, we foster an unmistakable sense of doom. We can't help but dread the very same perils that instituted one infamous admission: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
But Jonze's sci-fi constructs are so cohesively intertwined with his love story that our dread doesn't exactly translate to an anticipation of HAL's hostile takeover. Her wedges us so tightly between Theodore and Samantha that our fears of the inevitable clash between man and machine apprehend a smaller, more intimate ruin. As Samantha's growth become more surprising and challenging to Theodore, to herself, and to us, the omens build for each.
And although all three parties know better, we cannot help but affix ourselves to the chemistry between Theodore and Samantha, and to the possibility that we're building toward something supreme. A good faction of this is due to the unbelievable performances of Phoenix — representing the cautious excitement that we all know so painfully well — and Johansson, who twists her disembodied voice so empathetically that we find ourselves, like Theodore, forgetting that we have yet to actually meet her. The one castigation that we can attach to the casting of Johansson is that such a recognizable face will, inevitably, work its way into our heads when we're listening to her performance. It almost feels like a cheat, although we can guarantee that a performance this good would render a figure just as vivid even if delivered by an unknown.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
In this way, Her is as effective a comment on the healthiest human relationships as it is on those that rope in third parties — be they of the living, automated, or greeting card variety. In fact, the movie has so many things to say that it occasionally steps on its own feet, opening up ideas so grand (and coloring them so brightly) that it sometimes has trouble capping them coherently. Admittedly, if Spike Jonze had an answer to some of the questions he's asking here, he'd probably be suspected of himself being a super-intelligent computer. But in telling the story of a man struggling to understand what it means to be in love, to an operating system or not, Jonze invites us to dissect all of the manic and trying and wonderful and terrifying and incomprehensible elements therein. Just like Samantha, Her doesn't always know what to do with all of its brilliance. But that might be part of why we're so crazy over the both of them.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
It’s still uncertain whether or not there has been any child star that has come into adulthood unscathed, but what’s for sure is that stage parents are rarely ever as perfect as they make themselves out to be.
Here are 9 stage parents that will have you calling your mom tonight and telling her that you love her.
Dina & Michael Lohan A list about celeb parents gone wild would never be complete without the Lohans. Where to even start? In one side of the ring we have Dina Lohan, who has been blatantly freeloading off of Lindsay since she first shot to fame. Claims of being a Rockette (which she never was), a reality show, dodgy photos of her kinda-sorta making out with her own daughter (EW), showing up under the influence of WTF on Dr. Phil’s show, publicly sparring with her ex-husband, partying with Lindsay, and now a glorious DWI just weeks after Lindsay was released from rehab are some of the accomplishments Dina has under her belt. On the other side of the ring is Michael Lohan – over 6 years in jail, DUIs, random children with even randomer women, being violent towards his girlfriends, and talking to the press about how he’s not talking to the press anymore are some of Michael’s accomplishments. With parents like these, is it any wonder why Lindsay is the way she is?
Courtney Love Courtney Love is a hot mess and that title definitely passes over to her parenting skills. She was a shady parent from the start, admitting to Vanity Fair in 1992 that she took heroin while she was pregnant, though she stopped once she discovered she was with child. Love’s relationship with her daughter Frances has been plagued with drug overdoses, crazy Twitter rants, losing custody, restraining orders, and alleging that Dave Grohl hit on her daughter. It’s safe to assume that CPS was on speed dial for majority of Frances’ first eighteen years.
Charlie Sheen Charlie Sheen, Father. If those 3 words don’t strike fear in your heart, then little else will. Sheen may be winning life with his warlock tiger blood, but he sure isn’t winning any fatherhood acclaim. After he split up with Denise Richards in 2005, the couple had no problem airing out their dirty laundry for the world to see, which included the earth-shattering surprise that Sheen visited prostitutes and Sheen, the ever-romantic, threatening to kill Richards. The situation was replayed when Sheen and Brooke Mueller divorced in 2010, with Mueller getting a restraining order against Sheen for making “descriptive” threats to her. If that’s “winning,” being a loser sounds pretty awesome right now.
Jaid Barrymore Drew Barrymore comes from a long line of esteemed and troubled actors, but it’s her mom that gets most of the slack when it comes to her. Drew is a paradigm for reformed wild child, and majority of her problems stemmed from her own mother teaching her how to party. Jaid allegedly took Drew to Studio 54 before Drew could even walk. Drew was smoking and drinking by 9, doing cocaine by 13, and had gone to rehab twice by the time she was 14. Luckily, Drew divorced her parents when she was 15 and ended up turning out better than ok.
Joe Jackson It’s no secret that Joe Jackson always had a bad relationship with his children, namely Michael, but he reminded us all exactly how low he’d go after Michael’s death in 2009. Joe used Michael’s death as a publicity vehicle, using events commemorating MJ’s career to promote his own business ventures. He also blamed Katherine Jackson for Michael’s death, because that’s just the kind of stand-up guy he is. Joe complained about the fact that Katherine couldn’t stop crying after losing her son, admitting, “I didn’t give her a hug because I was mad at her crying.” Sociopathic much?
Kris Jenner We can all thank Kris Jenner for unleashing the Krazy Kardashian Klan upon us. Though they claim to love each other dearly and be a close family unit, it’s pretty easy to see that Kris Jenner has the entire family by the proverbial balls. Kris all but admitted to brokering Kim’s sex tape, saying on an early episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, “As a mother, I wanted to kill her. But as a manager, I knew I had a job to do.” Kris also encouraged Kim to pose for Playboy in 2007, even though Kim was uncomfortable with the prospect. There’s also the fact that she had no qualms about her barely teenaged daughters dancing on a stripper pole (in her own house, no less).
Linda & Hulk Hogan The Hogan Family is basically Days of Our Lives with more peroxide and less Stefano, and at the center of it all is poor Brooke Hogan. First, Hulk Hogan cheated on Linda Hogan with one of Brooke’s female friends. Then, in a totally non-attempt to get back at Hulk, Linda ran off with one of Brooke’s male friends. If all that wasn’t bad enough, a sex tape of Hulk and Heather Clem, the estranged wife of Bubba the Love Sponge (yes, that’s what someone chooses to call themself) was suspiciously leaked onto the interwebs. Hulk may be a WWE superstar, but nobody wanted to see that. It’s one thing when celebs leak sex tapes, but celeb parents leaking sex tapes is a whole other shade of embarrassing.
Ryan O’Neal If there’s a perfect example of why people should have to be tested for competency before they become parents, Ryan O’Neal is it. Ryan is the reason why his son, Redmond, is also a drug addict, with the 2 of them sharing a touching father-son arrest for felony meth possession in 2008. His daughter, Tatum, also alleged claims of physical and emotional abuse on his part in her memoir and she’s no stranger to drug arrests either. Making things worse is the fact that Ryan admitted to hitting on Tatum at Farrah Fawcett’s funeral, stating, “I was just trying to be funny with a strange Swedish woman, and it's my daughter. It's so sick." At least we all agree on one thing, Ryan.
Chrisoula Workman The latest recruit in the Crazy Stage Parents Club is Chrisoula Workman, mother of Modern Family star Ariel Winter. In 2012, reports emerged that Ariel had been removed from her home due to her mother abusing her physically and emotionally. Ariel lived with her older sister Shannelle, who was also removed from the house by the Department of Children and Family Services and even lived in foster care for a while. Some of the things Chrisoula was accused of include name-calling, insults about weight, trying to ‘sexualize’ the then-14 year old, and even depriving Ariel of food. Instead of trying to solve her family’s problems, Chrisoula went all out on the offensive, spreading rumors about her daughter wanting to shack up with an 18-year-old and telling a judge not to believe Ariel, saying, “She’s an actress so I’m sure she can cry at the drop of a hat.” Wow. Hey Chrisoula, there’s this great guy that’s just perfect for you named Joe Jackson...
More:Young Adult Novels Are Taking Over The TheatersMelissa Joan Hart Reveals Secret Drug AbuseZach Galifianakis Calls Justin Bieber Out For Being A Douche
From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)15 Stars Share Secrets of their Sex Lives (Celebuzz)