Jeremy is visiting. This afternoon we found ourselves at the Piedmont Theater, Oakland's oldest movie house. While there we watched Her, Spike Jonze's 2013 film set in not-too-distant-future Los Angeles. Her won for Best Original Screenplay at this year's Oscars, and this was well deserved.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly (an awesome name), who has the fascinating job of crafting heartfelt handwritten letters on behalf of other people. As that job reveals, Twombly has a sensitive side. He is currently wrestling with the emotions conjured up by his divorce to his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). For months he has refused to sign the divorce papers, even though they have not lived together for almost a year.
In this vulnerable state he downloads "OS 1," the world's first ever operating system powered by artificial intelligence. Theodore's OS 1 is personified by a friendly and fiercely intelligent woman named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Their conversations quickly move away from the transactional (clearing email) to the deeply personal (hopes, fears, regrets.) Yes, it is true--Samantha and Theodore become boyfriend and girlfriend.
Ridiculous, in many ways. Samantha is not a physical person, but rather a disembodied voice that transmits through a computer. Their sex life is...um....simulated. And late in the film we discover that Samantha actually has many such lovers, that Theodore is not her only catch.
Turns out that polyamory is not restricted to physical beings.
And yet, and yet. Theodore and Samantha's relationship is authentic, genuine, and vulnerable. Artificial intelligence leads to genuine emotion. In many ways their relationship is more mature and honest than human-to-human connections. They argue, they make up, they laugh, and they cry. The one obvious difference they can't surmount clears the way for Theodore and Samantha to be their most authentic selves.