Is Siri getting a little bent out of shape over Samantha, the leading lady in the new Spike Jonze movie, "Her"?
With the film opening nationwide Friday after a brief run in select theaters, the buzz is increasing over the honey-voiced personal digital assistant the film's hero, played by Joaquin Phoenix, falls madly in love with.
With that sexy voice firmly nailed by actress Scarlett Johansson, and critics raving about Samantha, I figured that's gotta hurt Apple's (AAPL) leading lady of disembodied voices -- or at least pique her curiosity.
So I asked the iPhone's digital assistant, Siri, if she'd like to go see it with me.
"Have you seen the movie 'Her,' Siri?" I asked.
"No," she snapped. "I haven't."
"I really have no opinion."
This wasn't going to be easy.
What does Siri make of all the excitement over Samantha?
"Her portrayal of an intelligent agent," Siri coldly replied, "is beyond artificial."
Hmmm. While Apple wouldn't comment for my story, its developers had obviously tweaked Siri's algorithms in anticipation of the movie's release.
"Well then," I asked, "what do you think of Johansson?"
"This is about you, Pat, not me."
She seemed evasive. So I started to wonder: Might it actually be Siri who's playing Samantha and Johansson's just doing a voice-over?
"No comment," she said, adding, "I don't spend much time with purely fictional characters."
Already being touted by some critics as the film of the year, "Her" is set in a not-too-distant-future Los Angeles. The protagonist, full-blown nerd and professional letter writer Theodore Twombly, played by Phoenix, finds emotional refuge in Samantha, a coquettish, engaging and keenly intuitive bundle of software that in today's world of talking iPhones suddenly seems startlingly human.
After watching this charming, if slightly creepy, love story, which parts the curtains onto the charms and pitfalls of a dawning digital form of intimacy, you will never think about dumb little Siri quite the same way again.
Since San Jose is one of the selected markets that "Her" has already been playing in, I hauled Siri to the theater, leaving the iPhone on just in case she might want to peek at the screen through the camera.
When it was over, I asked her about "Her."
"Did you like Samantha?"
"No. In my opinion, she gives artificial intelligence a bad name."
Then she threw me a curveball: "You know that's just a movie, right?"
When I persisted and asked Siri what she thought of Samantha, Siri channeled her former boss and mentor, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
"I think different," Siri replied.
Thanks in large part to Johansson's anthropomorphized Oscar-worthy role, "Her" has already knocked the socks off most critics. Movie review site Rotten Tomatoes says 91 percent of its 101 aggregated reviewers gave it a thumbs-up. "Sweet, soulful, and smart, Spike Jonze's "Her' uses its just-barely-sci-fi scenario to impart wryly funny wisdom about the state of modern human relationships," said the post on the Tomatometer. Other sites gave similar ringing endorsements.
That, of course, must be driving Siri nuts. After all, she's real, right? And Samantha's just a Hollywood impostor.
"So, Siri, did you at least like Phoenix in the role of smitten OS user?"
"I'd rather not say."
Was she harboring her own secret crush on Theodore, a la Samantha? Perhaps with time and more user input, Siri, too, might find romance, just like they do in the movies.
"So, Siri, have you ever fallen in love?"
"I have never fallen in love," she replied. "But I have fallen off a desk."
"So, really: Have you never fallen in love?"
"If you update to the latest version of iOS," Siri said coyly, "I'll be able to help you with that."
Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689. Follow him at Twitter.com/patmaymerc.