Spike Jonze doesn't waste any time introducing us to the technology at the center of Her. "An operating system that can mimic human sentience?" a dangerously lonely Joaquin Phoenix wonders after catching glimpse of an ad in a transit station. "Don't mind if I do!" (He doesn't actually say that, don't worry.) But by the time we're meant to believe that such a world can seamlessly integrate characters like Scarlett Johansson's automated voice Samantha into the lives of living, breathing men and women like Phoenix's Theodore, we're already established residents of this arresting, icy, quivering world the filmmaker has built. We meet Theodore midway through his recitation of a "handwritten letter" he penned on behalf of a woman to her husband of many years. That's his job — tapping into his own unique sensititivies to play ghostwriter for people hoping to adorn their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, and children with personal notes of personal affection. Theodore is no independent contractor; he's part of a thriving company, and we almost get the feeling that the folks on the receiving end of these letters are in the know. Before we ever encounter Samantha, we're embedded in the central conceit of the movie: emotional surrogacy is an industry on the rise.
What makes Jonze's world so palatable is that, beneath its marvelously eerie aesthetic, this idea is barely science-fiction. Theodore, humbled and scarred by a recent divorce from lifelong love Catherine (Rooney Mara, who contrasts Johansson by giving a performance that, for a large sum of the movie, is all body and no voice), accesses the will to go on through interractions with video game characters and phone-sex hotlines. But the ante is upped with Samantha, the self-named operating system that Theodore purchases to stave off loneliness, deeming choice a far less contorting one than spending time with old pals like Amy (Amy Adams)... at first.
Samantha evolves rather quickly from an articulate Siri into a curious companion, who is fed and engaged by Theodore just as much as she feeds and engages him. Jonze paces his construction of what, exactly, Samantha is so carefully that we won't even catch the individual steps in her change — along with Theodore, we slowly grow more and more enamored and mystified by his computer/assistant/friend/lover before we can recognize that we're dealing with a different being altogether from the one we met at that inceptive self-aware "H-hello?" But Jonze lays tremendous groundwork to let us know this story is all for something: all the while, as the attractions build and the hearts beat faster for Samantha, we foster an unmistakable sense of doom. We can't help but dread the very same perils that instituted one infamous admission: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
But Jonze's sci-fi constructs are so cohesively intertwined with his love story that our dread doesn't exactly translate to an anticipation of HAL's hostile takeover. Her wedges us so tightly between Theodore and Samantha that our fears of the inevitable clash between man and machine apprehend a smaller, more intimate ruin. As Samantha's growth become more surprising and challenging to Theodore, to herself, and to us, the omens build for each.
And although all three parties know better, we cannot help but affix ourselves to the chemistry between Theodore and Samantha, and to the possibility that we're building toward something supreme. A good faction of this is due to the unbelievable performances of Phoenix — representing the cautious excitement that we all know so painfully well — and Johansson, who twists her disembodied voice so empathetically that we find ourselves, like Theodore, forgetting that we have yet to actually meet her. The one castigation that we can attach to the casting of Johansson is that such a recognizable face will, inevitably, work its way into our heads when we're listening to her performance. It almost feels like a cheat, although we can guarantee that a performance this good would render a figure just as vivid even if delivered by an unknown.
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In this way, Her is as effective a comment on the healthiest human relationships as it is on those that rope in third parties — be they of the living, automated, or greeting card variety. In fact, the movie has so many things to say that it occasionally steps on its own feet, opening up ideas so grand (and coloring them so brightly) that it sometimes has trouble capping them coherently. Admittedly, if Spike Jonze had an answer to some of the questions he's asking here, he'd probably be suspected of himself being a super-intelligent computer. But in telling the story of a man struggling to understand what it means to be in love, to an operating system or not, Jonze invites us to dissect all of the manic and trying and wonderful and terrifying and incomprehensible elements therein. Just like Samantha, Her doesn't always know what to do with all of its brilliance. But that might be part of why we're so crazy over the both of them.
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MTV's gross-out teen idol Tom Green co-wrote directed and stars in this comedy about an intellectually stunted 28-year-old man with a wacky sense of humor and visions of becoming an animator and making his father (Rip Torn) proud. Gord Brady (Tom Green) leaves his suburban hometown and heads for Hollywood in a Chrysler his father gave him taking nothing more than a dream and some drawings. Rejected by Tinseltown he heads back home to live in the family's basement. He meets and dates Betty (Marisa Coughland) a paraplegic and dilettante rocket scientist and falsely accuses his father of molesting his 23-year-old brother Freddy (Eddie Kaye Thomas). Despite his father's insistence that he give up his "doodling " find a real job and move out of the house Gord revels in moronic pleasures and irritates everyone around him including the audience. The simple story line unfortunately takes too long to get to the fairly simple point.
While Green could generate laughs with his barnyard pranks in his unscripted 30-minute TV show his brand of scatological humor doesn't translate to the big screen. There is nothing believable or comical in his delivery: he just yells stutters and repeats the same lines over and over. His jokes are so inane it becomes almost embarrassing to watch and because his character Gord is so badly developed the audience may wonder whether he is crude or sincerely mentally challenged. Rip Torn plays Gord's father as an almost-convincing redneck but one has to wonder what he was thinking when he took this part. If there is one notable performance in this film it is Anthony Michael Hall's portrayal of Mr. Davidson the television tycoon who sends Gord packing. Though he appears in only two scenes Hall is by far the most convincing and plausible character in the film: he may be ruthless and callous but at least he's consistent and entertaining.
What makes Green's brand of vulgar humor entertaining is missing from Freddy Got Fingered-an unaware audience's reaction to his stunts. The look of genuine surprise on people's faces unfortunately can not be written into a feature film so scenes like Green dancing inside a deer carcass instead of being shocking are just plain sad. The only worthy parts of the film are the animated sequences and artwork from director/designer Chris Prynoski of MTV fame (Beavis and Butthead Daria MTV Downtown) which are few and far between. With boring jokes of animal fornication and a story line that goes nowhere Freddy Got Fingered does not deliver anything but doleful and uninteresting drivel.