Sunday, May 11, 2014

Video review: "Her"

The quirkiest of the nine movies nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture last year is “Her,” which not coincidentally is probably the one that most of the people reading this haven’t seen, or possibly even heard of.

Correct this tragic oversight right now – your cinematic life will be the richer for it.

I know a lot of people were put off by the bizarre premise: a lonely man falls in love with his computer. This might sound like the set-up for a bad raunchy comedy, but in fact this tender drama from writer/director Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich”) offers trenchant observations about loneliness and romance.

Set in the not-at-all-distant future, “Her” shows how we use technology to bring us all closer together, but in fact our gadgets and apps actually serve to drive us apart. Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, whose sorrow from a recent breakup seems to seep through his skin.

He installs a new operating system for his computer that is supposed to simulate a full human personality. Dubbing herself Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), she quickly becomes his social crutch and, surprisingly, his soul mate.

The movie wisely doesn’t get bogged down in the science fiction aspects of the story – whether Samantha is really sentient or not, or where exactly her consciousness resides. She’s represented as a voice inside Theodore’s head via ear buds, and she “sees” through the camera of a little compact computer he carries around. Jonze and his actors simply invest their belief that Samantha is real, so we accept her as such.

Funny, sad and insightful, “Her” is exactly the sort of ambitious small film waiting to be rediscovered on video.

The DVD comes with a making-of documentary, “Her: Love in the Modern Age.” Upgrade to the Blu-ray combo pack, and you add a couple of featurettes: “How Do You Share Your Life with Somebody” and “The Untitled Rick Howard Project.” (The latter refers to the original title for “Her.”) These include perspectives from Jonze, his cast and crew.



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