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Future Sex, Love Sounds

Falling in love with Spike Jonze's Her



Old people love Village Inn. Love it. For starters, nothing about the place has changed since 1958—and at a certain age reliability itself becomes of chief importance.

Over Christmas, I busted my fantastic 88-year-old grandmother out of her retirement home and then floored it to Village Inn. Where, over lunch, she leaned over her tomato soup and quietly recited two poems she'd written about one of her boyfriends.

The poems were great—short and funny and heartfelt, sharp with life and nervousness. I assumed she'd written them as a teenager. But she hadn't: She wrote them about her current boyfriend, who lives in her retirement home, a floor or two down from her.

I suspect my grandmother would have a hard time with some of the specifics of Her, Spike Jonze's film in which a man falls in love with his phone's artificially intelligent operating system. But I think she'd still get caught up in the film, as will just about anyone who's ever been in love. Hacky film critics are going to write about how Her is a film about our relationship with technology, but it isn't. Her is a film about our relationships.

Her's near-future is minimalist and optimistic, dappled in sunlight and crowded with graceful skyscrapers. (It's the sort of future where Microsoft products—let alone poverty, disease, or Village Inns—don't exist.) The technology in this world is elegant and clear, smoothly and constantly complementing the lives of people like writer Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix). So it's not that surprising when Theodore starts a relationship with his phone's OS, Samantha (Scarlett Johansson): Theodore is kind and melancholy and funny, and Samantha is clever and independent and insightful. Soon they're in love—and soon after that, things get complicated, thanks to time-honored relationship issues like Samantha not having a body.

Jonze hadn't directed a bad feature—from Being John Malkovich, to Where the Wild Things Are, to Adaptation—and Her, which he also wrote, might be his best. Like Nicole Holofcener's recent Enough Said, Her is a reminder that romantic comedies don't have to be cynical, mechanical things: Her is as funny and weird and challenging as it is earnest and sweet. Theodore and Samantha's relationship feels real—it's impossible not to get emotionally invested in it, not to think back on stray words and glances—even after Jonze's film has ended. That's something pretty timeless and pretty rare, in movies or poetry or real life. You'd have to ask her to be sure, but I'm guessing my grandmother would feel the same way.

dir. Spike Jonze

Opens Fri Jan 9

Various Theaters

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