The critically acclaimed Spike Jonze film Her is set to land on Netflix on October 1st. The high concept movie stars Joaquin Phoenix as a depressed man going through a divorce, eventually finding companionship with his Alexa-like AI assistance Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).
The pic was a big hit upon release, grossing double its budget and picking up a ton of awards, including Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Screenplay. Both Phoenix and Johansson received a lot of praise for their performances as well, with the latter being singled out as filling in the AI’s disembodied artificial voice with genuine personality and making the unlikely romance work.
Interestingly, Johansson was a very late addition to the cast. Samantha Morton was originally brought on for the role, delivering her performance on set from within a carpeted box and avoiding interacting directly with Phoenix. But things didn’t pan out.
According to Jonze:
“It was only in post-production, when we started editing, that we realized that what the character/movie needed was different from what Samantha and I had created together. So we recast and since then Scarlett has taken over that role.”
Her remains a very forward-thinking film that successfully predicted where we’re going technologically. It’s an impressive feat, no doubt, given that real-life virtual assistants like Siri were only just beginning to become popular for much of the pic’s development and Amazon’s Alexa didn’t yet exist.
As Jonze foresaw, there have been numerous studies of the psychological effects on having an AI companion, with many users saying it helps combat loneliness even though they know they aren’t ‘real.’ I suspect that Her will only become more relevant as the years go by, too, as the AIs on our phones and in our homes become more convincingly human.
In any case, if you missed the film back when it came out, be sure to catch it on Netflix starting October 1st.