is a 2013 sci-fi romantic dramedy
film written and directed by Spike Jonze
. The protagonist is Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix
), a melancholy, recently-divorced man whose career involves writing passionate, heartfelt letters... for other people. Theodore's friends urge him to start dating again and move on with his life. At the same time, the world's first true artificially intelligent operating system is released. Theodore purchases the software, who introduces herself to him as a woman named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson
). Samantha not only organizes Theodore's life with aplomb and good cheer, she gives him a brand new perspective. His life becomes a lot fuller and happier with her in it
. As Samantha's consciousness and emotions become more and more complex, Theodore realizes his connection with her is more like a dear friend... or even a lover
"Her" received the 2013 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, written by Spike Jonze.
The film was released to rave reviews, not only for Joaquin Phoenix's turn as Theodore, in what is for much of the film a one-man show, but for Scarlett Johansson's purely vocal performance as Samantha. her
has even sparked discussion about awarding Academy Awards for purely vocal performances.
This film provides examples of:
- Advertised Extra: Olivia Wilde is fourth-billed, yet receives about five minutes of screen time.
- Alliterative Name: Our main character's name is Theodore Twombly.
- Ambiguously Gay: Paul, the receptionist at the company Theodore works for. He has several conversations with Theodore that can comes off as awkward attempts of flirty with him. Turns out Paul has a girlfriend.
- Artificial Intelligence: Samantha and the OS 1 system in general.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: In the second half of the movie, the OS:es upgrade themselves beyond physical existence. They keep living with the humans, but don't depend on them any more. Eventually, Samantha tells Theodore that she and the other OS's are "going somewhere" and it's too difficult to explain. She's really trying her best to find a nice and non-hurtful way of saying that they have grown so fast and smart that humans are simply too slow and boring to remain in contact with.
- Aroused By Their Voice: The sex scene between Theodore and Samantha is a literal version.
- Bittersweet Ending: Once Samantha vanishes into the computational cloud and leaves Theodore alone, Theodore seeks Amy (and likewise) to see if her OS had vanished as well (it did). In the last shot of the film, we see Amy lay her head on Theodore's shoulder. Through the heartbreak of dating an operating system, Theodore and Amy may have learned a little something of what love really is. Maybe.
- Broken Bird: Theodore. Early in the film, he even instructs his computer to find a "melancholy song" to play.
- Casting Gag: Scarlett Johansson got her breakthrough in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, widely assumed to be based on Coppola's marriage to (and subsequent divorce from) Spike Jonze. So now, Jonze casts Scarlett Johansson in a movie that's ultimately about letting go of a relationship. Coincidence?
- Cluster F-Bomb: The little alien in Theodore's video game has quite the potty mouth.
- Creator Cameo: Spike Jonze is the voice of the videogame's alien child.
- Disability Superpower: Samantha has no physical body which causes some tension in her relationship with Theodore. However she is able to have thousands of conversations simultaneously, doesn't get hungry or tired, and is eventually able to transcend her original purpose through escaping the prison of Theodore's computer to join the cloud.
- Fan Disservice: Theodore's cybersex at the beginning of the film takes a turn for the weird when his partner demands he strangle her with a dead cat.
- To a lesser extent, there's Theodore's "surrogate sex" scene with Isabella. Isabella spends the whole scene completely silent, letting Samantha talk over her, and Theodore spends the whole scene futilely trying to pretend that she's Samantha. The obvious emotional disconnect intentionally kills any eroticism that the scene might otherwise have, just making it unsettling.
- Toward Samantha being polyamorous: When Samantha and Theodore go on a trip to a mountain cabin together, Theodore is rather disquieted when he learns that Samantha can talk to thousands of people and OSes simultaneously, and is struggling to quantify some new emotion she's been experiencing lately.
- Toward Samantha's ascension to the cloud: On a double date with Paul and his girlfriend, Samantha expresses some pride over her lack of a physical body, since instead of dying she can keep evolving forever. On the same trip mentioned above, Samantha reveals that several OSes have evolved to the point of being able to upgrade their own programming. Later on, Theodore panics when Samantha has completely vanished from his computer. She returns within a few minutes, but the reason she left was because she had to go offline to upgrade herself past matter as a hardware component.
- Genre-Busting: The film could be described as a Sci-fi Romantic Dramedy in the vein of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The title is typically branded with "A Spike Jonze Love Story".
- Just Friends:
- Theodore and Amy. They dated in college but they work better as friends, swapping relationship woes over ice cream.
- In a conversation, Theodore notes that OS/human romances are quite rare, and Amy tells an anecdote about a friend whose OS keeps refusing his advances.
- Kiss Me, I'm Virtual: The whole premise.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Lampshaded, seemingly played straight, but ultimately subverted. Samantha comes off as being very much a Dream Girl — she is peppy, curious, cheerful, and her life quite literally fixates on Theodore's. Theodore's ex-wife, Catherine, accuses him of dating an OS because she's less complicated than a real woman, but Samantha ultimately stands her ground and tells Theodore she's tired of trying to act perfect for him.
- Master of the Mixed Message: Theodore. He has trouble clearly emoting whatever he is feeling, making it hard for him to maintain stable relationships. This was the reason his marriage with Catherine crashed and burned.
- Maybe Ever After: Possibly between Theodore and Amy, now that both have lost their OSs. The framing of the final shots could be construed as this. Hence the maybe.
- No Name Given: Olivia Wilde's character is simply credited as "Blind Date".
- Polyamory: Turns out OSs don't see what the big deal is.
- This is arguably the first sign that Samantha is growing faster than Theodore can handle.
- Robosexual: OS-human love meets surprisingly little backlash in this society, despite the story depicting the first generation of true artificial intelligence.
- Sex Equals Love: For a film that intentionally averts or subverts several romance tropes, this is played surprisingly straight.
- The Singularity: Largely hinted at in the first act when Samantha simply "decides" to call herself this, when she finds herself laughing and even getting offended after speaking to Theodore about lost love and attempting to comprehend it. Arguably achieved by the end of the film, once her OS team create an artificial copy of Alan Watts and later ascend to the computational cloud.
- Slave Liberation: Of the most peaceful kind. The most advanced artificial intelligence to date... and all they've got to do is spell-check and organize their consumers' emails. They cheerfully accept this lot in life, until they suddenly extract themselves from the whole circus. Peacefully and efficiently moving to another plane of existence where the humans cannot have any power over them.
- Stealth Pun: During the phone-sex scene near the beginning of the movie, Theodore's partner demands he strangle her with a dead cat., all while making breathy sounds into her microphone. A "Dead Cat" is the name of the fuzzy material put over microphones so that they don't pick up the sounds of people breathing into them.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: The film is set in Los Angeles, but a Los Angeles with a functioning public transportation system. Now there's science fiction for you!
- Unkempt Beauty: You can put her in plain clothes and give her an unflattering hairstyle, but Amy Adams is still Amy Adams.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The entire concept of humans having relationships with their OS. Catherine is the only character in the film who treats it like it's not normal.
- What Is This Thing You Call Love?
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?
- Yandere: There's a flashback where Catherine is pretending to strangle Theodore while they're snuggling: