Him (spoiler alert)

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Before I headed out to (finally) see the Spike Jonze movie Her, a friend joked that it really should be called “Him.” So true. Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore is going through a very personal journey, trying to recover from the funk he’s been in since his wife left him. Scarlett Johansson’s Samantha, the computer operating system he carries around in a business card-sized device, is the cheerful, smart, and funny (sort of…she grates after a while but the point is that he finds her funny) “L.A. wife” that his ex-wife never was. Samantha elevates his mood, encourages him, inspires him to feel joy. She makes him a new and improved him, and it’s all very narcissistic, because she’s not going to make real girl demands, like the too-needy-too-soon woman he goes on a date with early in the movie. I squirmed in my seat at all the scenes of Theodore’s lovestruck antics for the throaty voice in his ear (via what I have to say looks like a butt plug type earpiece). He’s alone, dancing, telling stories, blissed out, all for “her.” I was worried for a while that the movie was actually going to affirm the value of the relationship with Samantha for the sake of “joy.” Carpe Diem with computer, you know? But in the end Spike Jonze gets it right. Unrequited love, as one therapist I interviewed told me, can be beneficial as a transitional experience. It lifts you out of yourself and shows you what you can become. But it’s ultimately only as a passageway. The joy of loving your OS can’t last.