Despite the dangerously high-concept premise—"a man falls in love with Siri"—Her is one of the best science-fiction movies I've seen in a good long while. It's not flashy rockets-and-robots sci-fi: The artificial intelligence that Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix, rumpled and wearing a big, friendly, Vonnegut-like mustache) falls in love with feels less like a quantum leap ahead of Google Now and Siri, and more like a couple of well-paced quantum skips. But the AI, which immediately names itself Samantha, is voiced by Scarlett Johansson with remarkable warmth. Once Twombly powers her into existence, she's chipper like an enthusiastic retail employee, but she quickly grows fond of him. It's such an organic progression that only the most cynical viewers will fight it.
Her's gorgeous near-future is full of the casual wonders of technology. Video games are holographic, high-speed rail stretches out into the wilds of California, and Los Angeles is a beautiful collection of towers aglow with interesting slants of daylight. But even in the future, people still fall in and out of love. They hunker down on the subway, muttering quietly to their phones as they try to shut out the world. They stare at the inscrutable faces of strangers on the sidewalk and wonder what it's like to be outside their own body for even a second.
That problem of consciousness relates directly to Twombly as he interacts mostly with women—his ex-wife (Rooney Mara), a blind date (Olivia Wilde, in the worst sequence in the film), a neighbor going through relationship drama of her own (the incredible Amy Adams), and Samantha—but he seems to think of them only in relation to himself. He has no problem thinking of Samantha as a woman, but whether he thinks of women as human beings is still a subject for debate. Technology, Spike Jonze proves in his first solo script, can't solve our problems, but it certainly can help us rephrase them.