her-movie-posterWhere Have I See This Before?
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and voice of Scarlett Johansson
Director/Scriptwriter: Spike Jonze
Music Score by Arcade Fire
Warner Brothers
Rating: R for sexual themes and language
Running Length: 2 hours
Her is a rehash of the old story of a human falling in love with a robot/computer/electrical device. From Julie Newmar’s robot in black and white television to 2001: Space Odyssey and HAL the controlling computer to Robocop to current television’s Almost Human and police officers, the human-metal attraction is fuel for a writer. It’s been overdone. Now, with Her we have a lonesome guy, named Theodore, in a “somewhere” society who writes letters for others as a living (you read that right), divorced from a wife who doesn't understand him, and ripe for an electronic device and catchy voice named Samantha. Beware of the phone (another science fiction film), you will be entranced. This is not a deliberately humorous film, even the sexually suggestive scenes.
“He” of  Her is Joaquin Phoenix, who sometimes speaks so low you can't pick up his dialogue, in contrast to “Her” loud enough for the neighbors to hear. “Her” is an app designed to organize his life, but does so effectively and deftly. Before long, He relies on Her for almost everything from scheduling and canceling appointments to choosing music to listen to (best part of the film) to selecting restaurants and so on. Soon, Her is going with him in his shirt pocket, small camera noting everything. Sitting in the sun, on the beach, enjoying the sea and talking to a phone in his shirt pocket. People all around him, and he is emotionally attached to a three inch by four inch plastic box. Rod Serling would have had another field day with this, Gene Roddenberry, also.
Halfway through the film, the story moves into a world of robot rebellion and then it is like a second movie tacked into the first story, much like World’s End started out bar-hopping and ended with an alien invasion. Joaquin Phoenix, to his credit, does a fair job of depicting a man alone in his society, and without a means of reaching out except through electronics. There are women interested in him, but he doesn't seem to see them as he is so used to the voice in the phone as his friend. Scarlett Johansson’s voice is pleasant, but too familiar in its tone for this role. Because of this---perhaps a more formal tone of voice would have helped---I didn't buy her persona.
I found the set design of Her to be appropriate for this future, plus original music good for the spots when needed.  Amy Adams, as a woman who likes Theodore, gives a telling performance, but her best work in 2013 still is in American Hustle.
In the movie, Joaquin isn't the only one who uses this type of app and one telling scene is of people strolling on the sidewalk with their phones in their pockets and in their own private world. Robots turning humans into robots, but this part of the script is not enhanced, unfortunately. I kept checking my watch to see when Her would be over.
Copyright 2014 Marie Asner
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