Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Insanity of Love

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Insanity of Love

Article excerpt

So, yes, "Her" is about a guy who falls in love with his computer.

There's more to it than that, of course, but that will be the shorthand you hear about the new drama starring Joaquin Phoenix from writer/director Spike Jonze.

Those two, of course, are noted in their respective vocations for breathtakingly original work that often borders on the loopy - such as Phoenix's brilliant, vexing turn in last year's "The Master," or Jonze's audacious live-action adaptation of the iconic children's book, "Where the Wild Things Are."

If you're tempted to tune out based on that dismissive description: don't. "Her" is one of the best films of the year, and possibly the kookiest.

But despite the silly premise, the movie is anything but. There is not a drop of cynicism or irony in this lovely, sad contemplation on love and loneliness.

Phoenix is simply a marvel as Theodore Twombly, a smart, crushingly depressed man going through a bitter divorce who finds a new lease on life by installing an operating system (OS) designed to perfectly simulate a human personality. Dubbing herself Samantha and voiced by Scarlett Johansson, the OS coaxes Theodore out of his pit, helps build him back up, and then becomes his soul mate.

Both are as surprised by this development as anyone, but Phoenix never wavers in the portrait of a lonesome man reaching out for a human connection, even if it's a fake one. It's yet another Oscar- worthy turn from an actor who defies categorization.

Theodore works at BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com, which is exactly what it sounds like - writers are hired by people to compose lyrical, deeply personal letters to each other. Theodore is the best there is, having acted as the surrogate for some couples for nearly a decade.

The irony, of course, is that he is performing much the same function for his clients as Samantha does for him. Perhaps that's why a relationship with her is not so alien to him, since Theodore already existed as the ghost in the machine.

Set in the near future, "Her" arrives at precisely the right moment to comment on our technological evolution, where we've created amazing ways to stay connected that leave us more isolated than ever before. …

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