Speaking of “Her”

Speaking of “Her”

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Expressing one’s emotions can be problematic.

But not for Theodore Twombly.

He works for a unique “communications” company that specializes in writing heart-felt letters on behalf of  “too-shy-to-say-it-myself” clients. And Theodore’s letters are such masterpieces that a major publishing house wants to turn a collection of them into a best-selling book.

HerDespite his facility with soft-soap words, his own marriage is washed up. He and his wife have separated, divorce court proceedings have been initiated, and the only thing left for the two of them to do is sign-off on the final paperwork that will bring their marital relationship to an irrevocable end.

Twombly is depressed. He’s been looking for love in all of right places, but not finding it.

But after he installs a new operating system on his computer he falls head over heels with a new woman in his life: “Samantha,” the female voice of the avatar designed to be his digital life help-mate.

Can a virtual romantic relationship be as satisfying as a real one?

To find out, you’ll have to do as I did and see Spike Jonze’s latest film, Her, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore and Scarlett Johansson as “Samantha.”

Theodore and “Samantha” talk almost incessantly, and he’s as mesmerized with her as he must have once been when he soon-to-be-ex-wife (played by Rooney Mara) was his childhood sweetheart.

Not only do they bill and coo when he’s sitting in front of his computer at home, but he carries around a cellphone that looks like a cross between a billfold, a video camera, and a flip phone, so they can chat wherever he happens to be.

And when he’s alone in bed at night, well, he’s not alone in bed at night, if you take my meaning. [WARNING: DO NOT TAKE YOUNG TEENS OR SMALL CHILDREN TO THIS MOVIE UNLESS YOU PLAN ON COVERING THEIR EARS WITH YOUR HANDS DURING CERTAIN “INTIMATE” SCENES!]

Here’s the movie’s trailer:


Okay, so we all have had the experience “talking” to computers, or having them “talk” to us, on the phone. For example, if I dial the number for United Airlines, this “guy” asks what he can help me with. But since “He” (as opposed to “Her”) can only respond to limited queries, I usually end up shouting something like “No, you damn idiot!” at “Him” because he hasn’t a clue what I’m talking about.

And some of us may have “met” holographic “avatars” that a few airports have installed in lobby areas to assist travelers.

While we might process to “love” our portable electronic devices (and leave then “turned on” during all phases of flight aboard a commercial airliner), we don’t actually love them, and they aren’t capable of loving us.

Can you have a back and forth “dialogue” with a computer? As you’ll see from our story on asking “Siri,” the voice controlled entity “living” inside of your iPhone or iPad, to help you with trip planning, the answer is “Maybe.”

But suppose it were possible to love, in the true sense of the word, the “person” inside of your computer, smartphone, or tablet, and for that love to be requited?

Alas, as Theodore discovered when his marriage hit the rocks, avatars can be “unfaithful” and leave you, too. And he’s not the only one in the movie that finds himself caught up in a “virtual love affair.” Lots, and lots of other people have become in similar electronic, amorous affairs.

Does Her “work” as a movie? Maybe.

Maybe some day “artificial intelligence” won’t seem so “artificial” anymore.

Maybe it will seem as “real” as “the real thing.”

And if we can cast an android’s figure into one whose beauty our eyes can behold, then maybe we can have a romantic relationship with a robot.

Or maybe those human-like machines will fall in love with each other, leaving we mere mortals lonelier than we’ve ever been before.

(“Her” is currently playing in theaters everywhere. Spike Jonze was recently interviewed on NPR’s “All Things Considered” program.You can listen to the interview using the player below.

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