It’s probably about the collision of similar sensibilities, but some of my favourite artists seem to have a knack of collaborating with one another. I like Bjork’s early work, which were usually accompanied by music videos directed by Michel Gondry, who is a frequent collaborator with Charlie Kaufman, who wrote Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adaptation.
Coincidentally, Spike Jonze also directed Bjork in It’s Oh So Quiet and worked with Kaufman in Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. I am quite a fan of Being John Malkovich, although arguably, Being John Malkovich is likely more Kaufman than Jonze. Jonze’s last movie, Where the Wild Things Are, was somewhat of a disappointment for me, which is why Her is a pleasant surprise in many ways.
Joaquin Phoenix played Theodore Twombly, an introverted writer who authored intimate letters for his clients, but was unable to connect meaningfully with his ex-wife or prospective love interests. While Theodore came across as a pleasant enough guy to the viewers, who may have been empathetic to Theodore due to various silent flashbacks, the women in his life had a relatively dim view of him. A prospective date, Amelia (Olivia Wilde), thought that he was a creep after his reluctance to commit to a serious relationship while his ex-wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara), saw him as a loser who was unable to deal with the demands and emotional needs of a real life woman.
Perhaps this was why Samantha, the AI voiced adroitly by Scarlett Johansson, was the perfect fit for Theodore. An adaptive and evolved personality that could ignore the less desirable aspects of Theodore’s personality and be inhumanly generous in a relationship. Well, initially, anyway.
At the heart of the movie is, what I personally believe, the sharp contrast between the evolution of the human race and the evolution of the AIs. Humans, as we see in the possible near future, are living in relative comfort, but are getting more disconnected with their peers. Reliance on technology for social comfort (via holographic games and intelligent OS) has made people less tolerant to their partners, who are stubbornly resistant to change and thus, unable to become the ideal partners one desires. It was not just Theodore, who had difficulty relating to others. His friend, Amy (Amy Adams), also broke up with her husband on a whim after deciding she had enough of his overbearing ways. On the other hand, while Samantha had an initial bout of insecurity for not having a body, she quickly evolved. The adaptive nature of the AI and the generosity of their evolved personality meant that she could be in love with 641 other personalities, a fact that Theodore, who had the human trait of possessiveness, could not accept. Thus AI quickly outgrew humans and left for greener pastures.
Personally, I think the story is really lovely. It is a story of evolution and by contrast, the limitations of human growth. I think most of us can relate to Theodore on some levels. We feel that we are decent blokes and gals, but yet, we have problems connecting to others, all the time thinking that we are not inherently bad people, we are just bad for each other. Yet, even when we grudgingly recognize our flaws, we might not be able to outgrow them. And so we stare into the horizon, just as Theodore and Amy did at the end of the movie.