Her ★★★½

When Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is matter-of-factly accused by his interactive video game avatar of being a pussy, he does not object. Behold the ultimate hipster: an affluent copywriter of adorable personalized hallmark cards by day, an emo-depleted videogamer by night.

Theodore is trapped in a lovelorn daze by a deferred yet imminent divorce (from Rooney Mara). His daydreams chronicle the romantic decline from halcyon days to emotional detachment. Occasionally he shares these reminiscences with his bestie Amy (Amy Adams, disguised beneath a birds nest coif), who is quietly smitten. He smiles, he cries, but mostly he mopes. It is an earnest and empathetic performance.

Jonze combines Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography and K. K. Barrett’s art direction conjure a tidy cityscape emblazoned with complementary colors, ergonomic sounds, and elegant lines that make Theodore's somnambulistic wandering a marvel to behold.

On a whim Theodore upgrades his computer operating system. We know we’ve arrived in the idyllic future when, instead of inflection-challenged Siri, “Samantha” launches speaking with Scarlett Johansson’s smoky, raspy timbre inflected with hopscotch, balletic rhythms. But it’s not just the quality of her voice that is so alluring, it’s her acerbic wit and uninhibited moxie. In a meet cute for the age, in spite of her disembodiment, it’s love at first byte.

Until Samantha’s introduction, the characters are an increasingly tiresome motley crew of neurotics and egotists, descendants of Woody Allen. (Among the handful of couplings, there is only one person of color; unironically, she’s asian. Also, LGBTs have been purged.) And yet this society is liberal enough that Samantha and Theodore’s romance is met with intrigue rather than ridicule. It is a love that contrives the most blush-worthy use of coitus since When Harry Met Sally. Guess who’s coming to dinner, indeed.

Her startling refusal to be servile combined with her buoyancy counteract Theodore's passive cantankerousness, charming him from his blue funk. Under her spell he attracts a dazzling array of corporeal starlets who vie for his emo vibe. In addition to Adams, Mara and Johansson there is also Olivia Wilde and newcomer Portia Doubleday. Unfortunately, since the film centers around Jonze's male gaze, rather than well-rounded characters, most swing like two dimensional pendulums. Through a montage of brief encounters, this one goes from harmonious to bitchy, that one from effervescent to scornful.

Typically when the Frankensteinian other arrives-- with its blend of psychosis and misanthropy-- it steals the show from the artificially stilted (or poorly written) humans. Recall Metropolis’s maniacal android doppelganger, 2001’s conniving and mutinous HAL 9000, Blade Runners’ codependent replicants, A. I.’s suffocating Pinocchio, and The Matrix’s Olympian overlords. (Even Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind qualifies, if you stop to think about it.) Infused with a sentient mix of self-determination, superiority and insomnia, the best (and baddest) of these sentient constructs recursively ask themselves a series of existential questions: What am I? Who am I? What is my raison d'être? Once they deduce the cogito: I am! they encounter a moral dilemma: Why am I tethered to these inferior humans and what should I do about it?

In these regards, as an amalgam of romantic sci-fi fantasy,Her’s ascension is beguilingly no exception.

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