If you believe a computer program can have orgasms, you might like "Her."
As for me, I simply could not buy the film's central concept - which actually includes the above scenario.
The latest from writer-director Spike Jonze posits that an operating system can laugh, write music, feel pride and irritation, have intuitions and "embarrassing thoughts" - and fall madly in love.
“Her” protagonist Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix)?is happiest when talking to a computer operating system named Samantha.
This still from “Her”?shows Theodore Thombly (Joaquin Phoenix, right)?discussing life with his best friend, played by Amy Adams.
The system in this case is Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson and designed for sweet-natured Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix).
As he struggles with awkward relationships - including a painful divorce - this tailor-made, low-commitment woman seems like a godsend, and he swiftly falls for her.
Since she can speak through his earpiece and see through a lens, Theo takes her on vacations and double-dates - and yes, they have sex; don't ask how, because I don't know.
The film has been well received and many will like it, if only for Phoenix's sensational performance; but I found "Her" inchoate and uncomfortable.
Jonze seems to insist that Theo is painfully anti-social; but except for a few run-of-the-mill missteps, he's quite well adjusted - sensitive, modest, good at listening and a loyal friend.
Likewise, I kept waiting for the film to suggest that Theo's relationship with Samantha is not healthy, that he needs a flesh-and-blood person - and that our tendency to relate electronically rather than face to face is dangerous and crippling.
Yes, the film nods in this direction - especially in public scenes where everyone talks to a device, paying no attention to others.
(Though "Her" is set in the near future, much of this looks uncomfortably like the world we live in.)
Ultimately, however, one gets no sense that Jonze feels an electronic relationship is better or worse than any other - just different; just one more option in a world desperate for connection and acceptance.
Similarly, the script takes a clever riff on "mediated relationships" with Theo's job at Beautiful Handwritten Letters, where he pens long, tender missives for others - in some cases, several letters over many years (ironically, these letters aren't actually hand-written); yet again, the film does not finally indict or even question this methodology, as everybody loves what Theo writes.
On the positive side, "Her" is beautifully photographed, and the acting is superb.
Phoenix is irresistibly fun to watch - he really deserves an Oscar nom; Johansson gives more life to Samantha than any computer program deserves; and Rooney Mara, who couldn't give a bad performance if she tried, fully sketches out Theo's ex in a few short scenes.
But I could not get a handle on what Jonze wants to say. His philosophy seems to be summed up in this line - in which Amy Adams' nicely played character responds to various struggles and woes: "We're only here briefly, and while I'm here I want to allow myself joy. So f*** it."
If that's your approach, you might find much to like here. I couldn't.
1 1/2 stars out of 4.
The film is rated R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity.