Isn’t it true that we all project upon
our loved one their idealized version? And
part of whom we fell in love with was, in fact, the person that we fantasized
about being with, as opposed to the person actually in front of us?
Some marriages, in fact, have difficulty precisely because one person
perceives that the other loves them for who they want them to be, rather than
who they are; thus, there is always a sense of frustration with reality.
As if none of us can quite match up to the ideal, even our ideal
Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is a
professional writer of greeting cards. But
these aren’t the standard Hallmark versions you see in the store, these are
customized and personalized, in such a way that the recipient may not even be
aware that those pearly words did not, in fact, emanate from their loved one.
(OK, is that an acceptable deceit? Like
telling little kids that there is a Santa Claus?)
Theodore, ever the high-techhie, comes
across a program that promises a virtual relationship.
It seems that they have perfected a computer operating system
(“OS”) that sounds like a real person. Theodore
signs up, and quickly is introduced to….Samantha (the voice of Scarlett
Johansson). Why did she choose that
name? Well, because she researched all
the thousands of possibilities, instantly, and decided that was the one she
Right there Theodore begins to realize
that this very-realistic sounding voice is backed by an incredible
intelligence; or at least, the capacity to scan large amounts of data.
This voice even whispers, and giggles, and talks dirty, when prompted.
Not only that, “Samantha” seems to be evolving even as Theodore
begins to get really fascinated, then completely hooked.
“Samantha” not only remembers everything (and sometimes sends him
reminders), she will also wake him up in the middle of the night, because she
wants to talk. She will express doubts,
and frustration about being “without a body.”
She will even appear to be “jealous,” at the same time encouraging
Theodore to go out and actually go on a real date.
(He does, but the poor girl never had a chance; she was competing with
his idea of perfection.)
The more Theodore is drawn into this
“relationship,” the more isolated he becomes.
Besides an ex, he seems to have only a couple of friends, who happen to
live down the hall. Actually he’s
known Amy (Amy Adams) since college, and is quite comfortable just chatting
with her, and he proves to be quite a support for her when she breaks up with
her eight-year live-in boyfriend. But
even Theodore’s relationship with Amy pales in comparison to his
addiction---yes, it’s that strong----to Samantha.
Theodore can’t get enough of her. Even
when she playfully suggests bringing in another woman for a “three-way” so
Theodore can actually have a body to touch. The
stranger at the door, Catherine (Rooney Mara), is strangely willing, but
it’s just too weird for Theodore. Even
stranger sex doesn’t excite him anymore. Just
Ah, but there’s trouble in
. Samantha, having so much intelligence that she is in communication with
other “OS”’s elsewhere, begins to draw away from Theodore, and
occasionally seems distracted. When he
finds out that she also has a “relationship” with several hundred other
guys simultaneously, she can’t understand why he’s hurt.
Apparently exclusivity was a concept that never occurred to her.
Besides, she needs too much stimulation.
What is she supposed to do while he’s sleeping?
Yes, in recent film history, we’ve had
the relationship with the blow-up doll, and with porn queens, and with
imaginary lovers, and of course, we’ve had “Hal,” in “Space
Odyssey,” the computer that evolved far enough to consider the human
extraneous, and therefore disposable. This
one isn’t quite that. But it’s close. And
suddenly the real, messy, awkward, oh-so-human relationships seem perfectly
lovely by comparison.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St.
Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,