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Movie Review: "Her"

Warner Bros.(NEW YORK) -- Her is that movie.

Which movie?

The movie that reminds you why you fell in love with movies.  The movie that reminds you that imagination is indeed alive and well in Hollywood.  The movie that lets you know that things don’t need to explode, shots don’t need to be fired, cars don’t need to be chased and 3D glasses don’t need to be worn for a movie to be good.  Her is a simple reminder that the best special effect is a great story.

The world needs more filmmakers like Spike Jonze.  Here he delivers a story that, supposedly takes place in a not-so-distant future Los Angeles -- and what a stunning future LA has in this movie.  Tall buildings abound.  There's an elevated, clean, quiet subway system.  The only things you hear are the soft voices of the well-mannered passengers, perhaps talking to their personal operating systems, like Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore does.

Theodore is a lonely man, still suffering from post-traumatic marriage syndrome, who spends his nights either playing a hilarious holographic video game (hilarious to the audience) or having hilariously awkward phone sex (hilariously awkward to the audience) via some futuristic social network. 

But fundamentally, Theodore is a gentle and poetic soul.  He's a professional letter writer, composing beautiful notes on behalf of those who have little, if any, letter-writing skills.  He also misses his estranged wife, Catherine (Rooney Mara).

Theodore’s life changes when he purchases the latest and greatest computer operating system.  When enabling the OS, he chooses a female voice -- Scarlett Johansson’s voice, to be exact -- to interact with.  The technology is so quick and adaptable, the OS becomes Theodore’s perfect mate.  It even has a name: Samantha.  She learns how to tell jokes, develops emotions, and quickly comprehends nuance, irony and sarcasm.  Before long, Theodore and Samantha are boyfriend and girlfriend.

The funny thing?  It’s not weird.  Their relationship seems perfectly natural.  But can it last?  As his relationship with Samantha blossoms, Theodore finds a confidant in his married neighbor and old friend, Amy (Amy Adams), who has more than a little in common with Theodore.  Let’s just say, she’s a bit lonely, too.

Phoenix’s performance is perfectly restrained and sublime.  Few actors internalize as well he does.  On the other hand, I'm not sure the movie really works without the vocal talents of Scarlett Johansson, who clearly did more than just sit in a recording booth and take direction from Jonze.  Even though you never see her, this is some of her finest work.

Her is a gorgeous and contemplative story that tickles the imagination, exploring our need for companionship, and what it is to live without it, like few other movies ever have.

Five out of five stars.

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