Another Spike Jonze film is something I look out for after the excellent ‘Being John Malkovich’ and ‘Adaptation’. This film, set in LA, involves a recently-separated man (Theodore – Joaquin Phoenix) who has a job writing other people’s love-letters. It follows his increasing emotional dependence on his new operating system Samantha, which is programmed to have emotions and learn from experiences.
The voice of the OS initially seems disconnected and clearly added in post-production, as it is not coming through the computer but just from ‘everywhere’, but actually this is probably the effect they wanted to create as Theodore wears an earpiece to communicate with the OS. It offers a near-future that in one sense is disappointingly device-dependant, but on the other hand one where people would at least be talking to their devices rather than walking along or driving, looking at their screens and tapping away like they do today.
It doesn’t really cover any fresh ground and it follows the path you would expect. It’s quite dour in tone as the protagonist is still really hung-up about his divorce for most of the film (as I’m sure you would be!) and the colour palette seems to reflect this with beiges everywhere. Despite a good performance from Joaquin, there are inevitably an awful lot of scenes that just involve starting at his face as he talks to a computer. Still, there are occasional lighter moments: the brief day-out scene is welcome, the paper clip in the pocket is a nice detail and I found myself looking at the apartment and skylines with awe (possibly because the story wasn’t holding my attention). A lot of the filming was actually done in Shanghai (which seems to be happening more often), as well as in LA itself.
It’s very whimsical and a bit too long (what’s a surprise) and I’m sure some people will enjoy it, but it felt quite empty to me. The moral of the film appears to be that if you are going to invest in an emotion-based learning OS, then make sure it’s not a cloud-based solution, make sure it’s exclusive to your devices. A lesson for us all there then.
3 on 5
Director: Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlet Johansson
UK Release: 14 Feb 2014