DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

HER (director/writer: Spike Jonze; cinematographer: Hoyte van Hoytema; editors: Eric Zumbrunnen/Jeff Buchanan; music: Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett; cast: Joaquin Phoenix (Theodore Twombly), Scarlett Johansson (Voice of Samantha), Amy Adams (Amy), Rooney Mara (Catherine), Chris Pratt (Paul), Olivia Wilde (Blind Date), Matt Leschner (Charles), Laura Kai Chen (Tatiana), Soko (Voice of Isabella), Kristen Wiig (Voice of  Sex Kitten); Runtime: 126; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Spike Jonze/Megan Ellison/Vincent Landay/ Daniel Lupi; Warner Bros. Pictures; 2013)

"Audacious gimmicky sci-fi romance story between a lonely divorced writer with his newly purchased OS1."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Talented filmmaker Spike Jonze ("Being John Malkovich"/"Adaptation"/"Where the Wild Things Are") is writer and director of this audacious gimmicky sci-fi romance story between a lonely divorced writer with his newly purchased computer breakthrough OS1-an operating system programmed to use Artificial Intelligence in his computer. The quirky and engaging bizarre plotline starts out with a clever premise but at two hours it slows down and comes in for a mushy landing. Nevertheless it's an innovative and amusing high-concept romcom that cleverly finds modern-man besides himself with his love relationships and that he is growing more dependent on technology to help with everything--even romance. Filmmakers like Kubrick,"2001-A Space Odyssey," have warned us not to rely too heavily on machines because they will break our hearts even worse than how humans can. This curio pic takes up that specious argument, as it glibly throws out the pros and cons of an intimate love relationship with a machine over a human.

It's set in LA, in the near future, where our bland, sensitive protagonist, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), lives a comfortable but lonely life in a luxury glass skyscraper building, where he spends much leisure time in his man-cave having phone sex and playing 3-D holographic computer games with a dirty-talking avatar. Theodore's a gentle and friendly bushy moustachioed young online writer, at handwrittenletters.com, of love letters for both males and females who need his ghost writing to express themselves to their significant other. Even though Theodore can write such moving love letters he's in the process of a divorce from his writer wife Catherine (Rooney Mara), who left him due to a lack of communication. Theodore's best friend, the self-absorbed Amy (Amy Adams), a video-game maker and secret love interest, lives in the same building with a New Age guy named Charles (Matt Leschner). One day the downcast Theodore cheers up when he begins a serious virtual reality relationship with his OSI gift--Samantha (the voice of Scarlett Johansson)--that includes enchanting daily chats, exemplary workplace help and marvelous cyberspace sex. Samantha is programmed as the ideal woman---a good listener, a genius and with a soft sexy voice to cater to all his needs.

The pic doesn't quite know how to end its romantic fable story of a vulnerable everyman smart guy falling in love with a disembodied voice, and botches the tender soul-mate connection it laid on us with a sudden cold water splash in the face ending to the perfect relationship over such banal things as human jealousy and insecurity. I guess this gives us something further to muse over.

REVIEWED ON 2/17/2014       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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