Joaquin Phoenix in ’Her’
Joaquin Phoenix in 'Her'

The fat cats at Apple must be kicking themselves for not getting Scarlett Johansson to be the voice of Siri.

As the hyper-intelligent operating system who names herself Samantha in Spike Jonze's near-futuristic romance Her, the blond bombshell is constrained in her performance to using just her voice, which coos with an affection and bubbly personality that you've never heard from your robotic iPhone assistant.

Samantha won't just sort your emails (though she can do that with unparalleled efficiency). Programmed with the next generation of artificial intelligence, Samantha has the ability to absorb knowledge and her experiences with the world, enriching herself like a real human. It gives her the capacity for anxiousness, or the persistence to create a piano piece that sounds a lot like one that Karen O or Arcade Fire would record for a movie soundtrack.

Joaquin Phoenix and Olivia Wilde in ’Her’
Joaquin Phoenix and Olivia Wilde in 'Her'

Her abilities seem ripe to be taken advantage of by any sort of person, perverts especially (Samantha would put phone sex companies out of business in two seconds; that must have been a deleted scene). Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) isn't that weird of a dude, no matter what his super-hot, sort-of-presumptuous blind date (Olivia Wilde) says. He's just a lonely, mustached man who writes other peoples' love letters for a living and who plays interactive video games during his nights alone.


Theodore's characterization (the sensitive man-child in the midst of finalizing a divorce from his longtime sweetheart, played by Rooney Mara) would be limiting if the setting around him wasn't so limitless. Jonze succeeded at the difficult task of creating a vision of a future that is a logical extension of our current world, as opposed to one with flying cars and kooky fashions. Sure, everything's a little brighter, but the people pretty much look the same as they do these days. They just have cuter cell phones.

In Her, everyone seems to walk around all day talking into their phones, yet nobody notices or cares. It's an isolating environment that breeds loneliness, which is why Theodore and his human-like computer can fall into a beautiful relationship that's actually believable. During the same time that Theodore and Samantha start falling in love, his only friend, a idealized platonic buddy played by Amy Adams, develops her most meaningful connection with her own O.S. It's not surprising -- it's just good programming.

When Mara's character hears about Samantha, she calls him out for choosing to be in a relationship where he doesn't need to give anything. Despite living in the modern world, she still has the timeless desire for human-to-human companionship. But in the world of Her, and even these days, she might be considered a dying breed.

Grade: A

Rated R for language, sexual content, and brief graphic nudity.

Follow Pete McQuaid on Twitter and Tout @sweetestpete.