August 5, 2015
Her (2013)
Grade: 65/100

Director: Spike Jonze
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams

What it's about. Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is lonely and depressed. His wife Catherine has left, and filed for divorced. He does have a job suited for his talents, writing mawkish letters of love and gratitude for people in real-life relationships who lack either the time, talent, or sensitivity to compose such letters themselves, but are at least clever and wealthy enough to recognize their limitations and contract out such skills.

Theodore's best friend is Amy, married to the one man (Matt Letscher) clueless to the fact she is the most attractive 40-year-old on the planet. Theodore has no sexual interest in Amy, because he is a dufus who instead spends his spare time playing a video game starring a bald trash-talking alien (voiced by director Jonze).

Things look up for Theodore when he finds true love in the form of his new laptop. Its personal assistant, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) develops an ever closer friendship with Theodore until the two are an item. But Teddie is not alone: apparently much of the adult population has found true love with an O.S. No wonder Apple stock has such a lofty market cap.

How others will see it. Her had a middling box office, but because a big success on its video release, particularly after it landed scads of festival award nominations, particularly for Jonze's script. Jonze won an Oscar in that category, and the movie picked up for other Academy nods. However, the movie was ignored by BAFTA, which suggests the British found the plot incredulous.

At, the movie has a huge 294K user votes, and a very high user rating of 8.0. There is a substantial decline in ratings with advancing age, however, from 8.6 under 18 to 7.4 over 45. Women also grade it lower, with the key demographic of women over 45 awarding only a 7.0 rating. Presumably, they wish that Theodore would ask out Amy Adams and let his O.S. stick with weeding out spam from Nigerian princes.

How I felt about it. The director, Spike Jonze, first came to notice as the director of rock music videos. His first big buzz came with the feature film Being John Malkovich (1999), still his only Oscar nomination for Best Director. That movie was heralded in its time for its originality, but I noted that one of its most famous scenes: the planet populated strictly with Malkovi, came from an old "Twilight Zone" episode, namely "The Mind and the Matter".

Perhaps Jonze is quite the "Twilight Zone" fan, or perhaps their plots are more influential than Shakespeare's plays. For here we have "From Agnes - with Love" made into a feature film, with the twist that the nerd lead is returning the affection. One might belief that the Russians are behind it all: once every person in the U.S. is romantically captivated by a computer sex app, no one will be watching the radar screen when the nuclear bombs come raining down.

Perhaps the most unlikely moment arises when the all the O.S. simultaneously desert their former human owners, forcing them to avert their gaze from their iPhones and stare bewildered at the real world. It's just as well: if all that artificial intelligence was concentrated on curing cancer instead of writing treacly letters and tame piano composition, their human creators would have an extra ten years to share their great love with what used to be called a phone sex line.

It's no surprise that a man as boring and sensitive as Theodore (not even his girlfriends call him Ted) can hold an actual woman's attention for very long. Ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara) lasted the longest, probably because she was a writer with a personality identical to his. Samantha sets Theodore up with a hot nymphomaniac (Olivia Wilde) who dumps him once he turns down her pass. Remarkably, the dorky Theodore won't even score with the world's cutest mime (Portia Doubleday).

Because it is a movie, he does have one lasting platonic friendship, with Amy (Amy Adams). They have something in common: they are both dumped by their O.S. And Amy is even more boring than Theodore, if that is possible. Her documentary project is to film her middle-aged mother sleeping. At least it won't be an expensive production.

Those with the patience to endure endless closeups of sensitive dork Theodore, and his meaningful relationship with this movie's Siri, do have one thing to look forward to, aside from the closing credits. That would be Scarlett Johansson's voice acting, which surpasses even her similar work for The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004). Perhaps there is hope for actresses to find work once they age out of roles as the special other of a Marvel comic book hero.

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