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Emotional and thought provoking, 'Her' is one of the best films the year

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Release date: January 10, 2013

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Written and directed by: Spike Jonze

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Rooney Mara, and Scarlett Johansson

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Touching. Humanizing. Thought provoking. Bizarre. Fascinating. All of these words could be used to describe writer and director Spike Jonze's "Her", easily one of the best films of 2013.

Set in a not too distant future, Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a lonely writer whose speciality is ghost writing touching love letters. The irony being that he is a loser at love, struggling to man up enough to finally sign the divorce papers and finally say goodbye to his wife and lifelong best friend, played by Rooney Mara.

But Theodore desperately wants to move on, the only problem is he is his own worst enemy, choosing instead to spend his free time playing video games and watching porn. As his neighbor, another sad loner (Amy Adams) tells him, "it would be funny if it weren't true".

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Ted lives a life of instant gratification, where technology can literally do anything. All it takes is a simple request. But it's also what keeps him sheltered from the world. Ted is happy in his misery until his life takes a dramatic turn when he purchases a new artificial intelligence operating system. Designed to adapt to its user, his new OS, self named Samantha -- and voiced by Scarlett Johansson -- becomes his companion and his life coach.

Eventually, that relationship develops into some uncomfortably bizarre territory. Samantha becomes more than a fancy pocket organizer with a sexy voice. She becomes Theodore friend and his lover. Yeah, it gets weird. But through it all, as she evolves, she helps Theodore to evolve, helping him to understand his life and his humanity as Samantha struggles to accept her place in the world.

Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are) has crafted one of his finest movies to date. The film creates a tremendous blend of futuristic scenery and classic and retro styles. The film looks and sounds amazing, a credit to both Hoyte Van Hoytema's gorgeous cinematography Owen Pallett's beautiful score. Each of them help breathe life into Jonze's engrossing screenplay.

But what moviegoers will remember most is Jonze's emotional approach to the humanizing relationship that develops between Theodore and Samantha. Once you get past the weirdness of a man falling in love with his computer -- which be honest, is it really that weird? -- there is a lot of deeply rooted philosophical questions about what makes us human.

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Say what you will about what is involved in the acting craft and whether or not a truly amazing performance can be given by just a voice, but Johansson delivers one of her best performances of her career without taking up one second of onscreen time. She has incredible chemistry with Joaquin Phoenix, who is equally as great, delivering an emotionally truthful performance through Theodore's emotional awakening.

"Her" is one of the finest movies of the year, but it could be one of the most poignant love stories of our time. And could be a serious threat come Oscar time.

Rating: Rated R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity

Running time: 2 hour 6 minutes

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