|year: 2013 rating: **|
Skip to the early eighties with the obscure movie ELECTRIC DREAMS: since PC's had barely taken off, it was downright extraordinary that a talking computer would behave in a humanly if diabolical fashion...
But the last twenty years with Internet chat rooms, social networks, dating websites and the navigating Siri herself, having a physically benign relationship via machine isn’t entirely farfetched. And in the near-future world, brought to life by writer/director Spike Jonze, it’s an all too normal occurrence.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a lonely writer working at a job perfectly suited for quirky arthouse fare: writing actual letters for other people by speaking into a computer. But things happen after Theodore gets home. Brooding through a divorce, he downloads a brand new operating system, OS1, which includes the girl of his dreams, Samantha, a computer taking care of just about every task, voiced by a soothingly silky-toned Scarlett Johansson.
An intriguing premise is hindered by the relationship seeming way too normal – to Theodore and just about everyone else. Since he admits outright to having a personal relationship with an OS, there’s no mystery or guilt involved with such a unique concept. Not only that but Phoenix, no stranger to intense/bizarre characters, isn’t given a chance to shine in his usual askew light. And the sappy, downright embarrassing scenes where Theodore and Samantha confess their mutual adoration is like overhearing a smitten couple whispering sweet nothings, making the audience a third wheel… which ultimately goes flat.
Perhaps if, like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, Samantha got real dirty we’d have a relationship worth the experience. FATAL ATTRACTION goes viral would beat this searing hipster flick with more naval-gazing theme than plotline. Although there is one particular "baby alien" on Theodore's virtual realty game console that, like the sassy, foul-mouthed teddy bear TED, would have made a much more unpredictable, entertaining sidekick.