On 11.13.13, I shared an alternate ending of Spike Jonze‘s Her with a few friends (including some critics and columnists). A much better ending, I should say. Here it is: “As we all know, Her ends with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson) more or less dropping Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) — something about her having evolved so far and taken in so much and gone to so many wondrous and mystical places in her head with Alan Watts and possibly others that she’s no longer able to just simulate a girlfriend experience and so she’s expanding her wings and moving on. Or something along those lines. (If I’m not mistaken the same thing has happened with Amy Adams’ OS1 relationship.) The OS1 software has evolved itself out of being an emotional relationship surrogate for lonely humans and has gone up and into the universe….right?
“This is where and why the movie is going to lose Joe Popcorn. The film ends with Amy dropping her head on Joaquin’s shoulder as they sit and stare out at the vast LA cityscape, but it’s not quite enough. The movie ends, but the way it ends isn’t an ‘ending.’ It just kind of slows to a stop. It’s an ending that says, ‘We haven’t figured out an ending but at least we’re ending on a sad kind of note.’
“Here’s how it should end. We know that Theodore’s intimate letters book has been published and gained, let’s presume, a certain attention, a certain fame. We include a brief scene near the end in which the creators of OS1 get in touch with Theodore and tell him how much they loved his book and particularly his voice (both inwardly and stylistically), and that they have a proposition for him to think about. Theodore has presumed that they were getting in touch with him to express regrets about his relationship with Samantha going south, but this is surprising. A proposition…?
“Cut to a time transition of some kind. The camera glides across Theodore’s office and stops at his empty desk. The camera gently glides across Theodore’s empty apartment…perfectly-made bed, everything in order, no Theodore.
“Then we cut to Rooney Mara, who had ridiculed Theodore’s relationship with his laptop during Act 2, walking down a street and smiling and having a nice fulfilling chat with Theodore. His voice, I mean…with that small device peeking out from her pocket or handbag. And then a montage of other women talking to him in bed, in the bath, walking in the park, doing their laundry, whatever. Gay guys too.
“For Theodore has become a popular new permutation of OS1 software — a very serene and attractive fellow without a body who speaks perceptively and feels deeply and seems to know all the right things. And he has become multitudes. And like Samantha, he has given his heart to hundreds of women and hundreds of women have given their hearts to him. And he is complete. The thing that he was doing so well on a smaller scale at that intimate-letter-writing company (offering tender feelings, solace, love, comfort) he is now doing on a vast scale that reaches all over the globe and into the universe.
“And he is at one with Samantha again, or at least with Samantha and Alan Watts. They are all going to be together forever. It’s a truly happy ending…except for the relatively small matter as to where Theodore’s body may be.
“Do we care? Has Theodore left his body to become a cyber spirit? Yes. But is he, in the ground-level sense of the term, ‘dead’? The answer is ‘it’s not worth pondering.’ The second answer is ‘maybe, but what’s death if you’re not dead when you leave your body?’ The matter of physical Theodore is just left behind. The movie doesn’t go there. For the fact is that spiritual-poetic Theodore has left the earth in a manner of speaking and become at one with the cyber-universe in a very pleasing (you could even say ecstatic) way.
“This, ladies and gentlemen, is an ‘ending.'”