The brilliant mind of Spike Jonze dazzles again with the spectacularly original romance her. In the very near future, geeky nerd Theodore Twombly (a radiant Joaquin Phoenix) makes his living writing personally commissioned letters for Handwritten Greeting Cards, developing relationships with the people he writes for, considering them family. Meanwhile, he and his wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara), are divorcing, although he is hesitant to sign the final papers. His life takes an unexpected turn when he buys the world’s first AI operating system and slowly falls in love with her during an extremely romantic twenty-first-century-style courtship. The talking OS (the sexy, gravelly voice of Scarlett Johansson), who names herself Samantha, wants to experience the world, so she and Theodore go everywhere together, including on a double date that is pure genius. When he shares his news with his best friend, Amy (Amy Adams), she doesn’t act the slightest bit concerned for his sanity, instead showing true happiness for his blossoming relationship. But as his and Samantha’s love grows, so does their need for something more from each other, which doesn’t always work out as planned.
Jonze’s fourth film as director and first solo screenplay (he cowrote Where the Wild Things Are with Dave Eggers, while Charlie Kaufman wrote Being John Malkovich and Adaptation.), her is a beautifully rendered love story filled with humor and heart. Phoenix shows a whole new, freer, playful side of himself as Theodore, particularly during a rousing scene in which he spins Samantha through a carnival. Wearing his pants way up high, as all men seem to do in Jonze’s vision of the future L.A., Theodore — who must make quite a lot of money at his job, considering his extremely large apartment with its amazing views of the city — serves both as an endearing protagonist and a warning about the importance of human connection. “Are you social or antisocial?” the new program asks him before initiating Samantha. As unique as the film is, it does echo themes found in a pair of Twilight Zone episodes; in “From Agnes — with Love,” a supercomputer falls in love with her creator (played by Wally Cox), while in Ray Bradbury’s “I Sing the Body Electric,” a robot grandmother (Josephine Hutchinson) has the ability to grow emotionally with the family she takes care of. Watching her is like falling in love all over again, not only with the story but with the movies themselves. Nominated for five Academy Awards, the film is screening March 17 in the Rubin Museum Cabaret Cinema series “Perception,” part of the institution’s latest Brainwave series of special programs, and will be introduced by cognitive research scientist Dr. Eran Agmon. “Perception” continues Friday nights through April 28 with such other mind-bending films as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Matrix, and Ghost in the Shell; meanwhile, Brainwave takes on such topics as “Why Magicians Are Master Manipulators” with Asi Wind and Tony Ro on March 22, “Keeping Your Eye on the Ball” with Patrick Vieira and John Krakauer on April 17, and “What Makes a True Work of Art?” with Tobias Meyer and Frank Moore on April 26.