In the near future, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), an introverted not-quite-divorced writer, buys a new computer operating system named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) whose almost-human voice is so empathetic that he begins to fall in love with ”her.” If you’re already thinking of Siri jokes, get in line. Luckily, writer-director Spike Jonze, who started tinkering with the concept while finishing 2009’s Where the Wild Things Are, is known for crafting films of emotional and tonal complexity. ”On one level it’s about technology and the way we’re living our lives,” he says. ”But hopefully it’s more about the way we long to connect.”
The film features Amy Adams as Theodore’s confidante and Rooney Mara as his neuroscientist ex. But the central challenge was for Phoenix to act out a love story with an invisible costar, for which Jonze tried several different techniques: Phoenix and Johansson shot some scenes together with Johansson off camera; Phoenix had an earpiece that played him Johansson’s recorded lines; and Johansson recorded her lines over what Phoenix had already filmed. Still, Phoenix attributes their on-camera chemistry to something else. ”It’s probably just luck,” he says with a laugh. ”There are times when things just come together.” Which isn’t a bad tagline for the film.