12/27/2013

HER BY SPIKE JONZE WITH JOAQUIN PHOENIX

year: 2013 rating: **
Back when THE TWILIGHT ZONE episode TO AGNES WITH LOVE showed antisocial, lust-burdened geek Wally Cox falling hard for his female-voiced computer, it probably seemed pretty bizarre since office-sized computers weren’t exactly a commodity...

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.

The setup is intriguing. Theodore and Samantha get to know each other as he ventures outside and, with a camera in his phone and hearing her voice from an earpiece, she can view the real world: from outdoor malls to beaches to the wilderness, Samantha experiences life while not only saying the right things things but singing and composing music to fit each location and mood.

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.

1 comment:

  1. I obviously liked this movie more than you, ha! What really threw me off this movie had nothing to do with anything you observed. What killed it for me was Alan Watts. Out of freaking NOWHERE, when Samantha and Theodore are on their vacation and in the cabin in the middle of nowhere they are having the conversation and then Samantha introduces her friend Alan Watts. I'm a big fan of Alan Watts and his writing, Asian philosophy, etc. One of my teachers in college was personal friends with Alan Watts and in fact co-taught and basically help popularize eastern philosophies in the U.S. Of all people, Alan Watts...I can understand why, but for a movie in the 2010's its a bit obscure - and the instant change in Samantha and how she evolved from that point onward kind of killed the rest of the movie for me.

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