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Movie review: Joaquin Phoenix falls hard for 'Her'



Spike Jonze's vision of the future in Her (opening today), is one of the most creative and insightful that we've seen in in long time. It does grow tiring to see one cataclysmic apocalypse after another, when looking ahead into humanity's journey through time. Her takes place in the not-so-distant future and features the next evolution in "smart" technology...a world where you won't just love the latest technological release, you may fall in love with it. Literally.

2014 Warner Bros. Pictures

Joaquin Phoenix is Theodore, a lonely man who works in a field that hasn't quite been invented yet, as a "hand-written" letter writer. People pay a service to have him write heart-felt letters to loved ones, a sign in itself as to where humanity has gone. Nobody carries around a phone anymore, instead there is an ear-bud and other advanced tech-pieces. Human contact still occurs, but quite literally most people in the world walk around talking to themselves.

A new OS (operating system) has just hit the market and it is the first of its kind. It uses artificial intelligence to cater to the every need of its master. Think of Siri, but with a brain and the ability to learn, grow and adapt through interaction.

"What's your name?" Theodore asks his OS when he first gets it. "Samantha," the voice replies (the sultry voice of Scarlett Johannson, heard but never seen). He acts surprised that his new OS even had a name. She does too. The name just came to her.

We can all relate to our modern lives, where we rarely leave our computer screens or mobile devices. Imagine if these cold, unfeeling pieces of hardware could take on personalities. Riveting stuff.

Theo eventually finds comfort in his new friend. They talk all night long. He longs to talk to her during the day. Theo falls in love with Samantha, his OS, the voice in his head.

Who is to say that this relationship is not real? Through artificial means, Theodore has found the best and only human interaction he's ever had.

It's a future where mustaches have come back into style and where men - and women - fall in love with computers. Writer/Director Spike Jonze is on to something very real, as we feel a commonality with the themes. The future he presents seems like a natural progression from the modern-day world and our current struggles to find connection.

But there is something one-note about Her. For all of the interesting content, there is a hollowness. All at once it has something to say and then seems to linger on that singular point for way too long.

It's not that I wasn't all that into Her. But the overall chemistry was a bit lacking.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Run Time: 2 hours, Rated R

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Pratt, Amy Adams, Matt Letscher

Written & Directed by Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are, Adaptation, Being John Malkovich)

Opens locally on Friday, Jan 10, 2014 (check for show times).

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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"

  • 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
  • 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
  • 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
  • 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
  • 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time
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