For some reason or other, naming my computer makes it easier for me to deal with cyberspace. My grandmother felt the same way about her car. She called her automobile “Rosebud,” and I’ll never forget hearing frequent one-sided conversations while riding along with her. “Let’s go, Rosebud!” “Watch out for that dog, Rosebud!” Comments like those came as no surprise to any of our family members. Following in grandma’s footsteps, I chose a familiar name for my computer -- and usually start out the day with “Good morning, Rosebud.”
Is that reaching a bit for an introduction to the movie Her? Perhaps, but I couldn’t help thinking about Rosebud while watching filmmaker Spike Jonze’s latest creative offering. Set in the future, the movie deals with love and loneliness during a time when technological advances have made it possible for humans and computers to converse with each other on a much deeper level than current interactions with virtual assistants like Siri. In fact, Jonze (Adaptation) admits his inspiration for this film came from his experience with an early artificial-intelligence computer program.
After the shy professional letter-writer Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) -- who’s down in the dumps because of a broken relationship -- decides to try out a new advanced operating system, he’s very happy to meet “Samantha,” his computer’s charming voice (Scarlett Johannson). And why not? Samantha, a significant improvement over Siri, is amusing, intelligent, playful and responsive to whatever he requests. Plus, her delightful laugh would make anyone feel cheerful. This is a love story, so of course Theodore falls for her. What could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, serious problems develop between these strange lovebirds, especially when Samantha begins to have issues of her own – and we start to wonder if it’s possible for Theodore and Samantha to live happily ever after.
Suspension of disbelief is a must for mind-bending movies like Her. Sadly, I found it difficult to do that with this one -- despite Phoenix’s (Walk the Line) heartbreaking performance and Johannson’s (Hitchcock) memorable impression (even without a physical image of her appearing on screen!). I almost believed the attraction between these two characters, but not the way Theodore’s friends accepted Samantha. And I was disappointed with the repetitive nature of various conversations as well as with the little camera time given to the always wonderful Amy Adams (The Fighter), who plays one of Theodore’s supportive pals.
Still, Her deserves praise for its stunning depiction of what might happen to the human race if our face-to-face communication keeps decreasing while our plugged-in behavior escalates. It's also important to mention that the National Board of Review has named Jonze the Best Director and his movie the Best Film of 2013.
So what do YOU think about all this, Rosebud?
Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity. – Anonymous
Loneliness is about the scariest thing out there. – Josh Whedon
Sometimes it’s a form of love just to talk with somebody you have nothing in common with and still be fascinated by their presence. – David Byrne
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated “R” for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity. For more information about Her, please go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.)