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'Her': Love at first gigabyte

Published February 12. 2014 05:00PM

Some people sleep with their mobile phone in bed, or right next to them on a nightstand.

For others, their hand is often wrapped around their mobile phone.

Still others seem lost if they don't know where their phone is.

While the term "significant other" usually applies to a spouse, partner or companion, it could be argued that the mobile phone has became a significant other for some.

In a manner of speaking, that's the premise of "Her," a brilliant, prescient and unsettling romantic comedy by director Spike Jonze (born Adam Spiegel; director "Adaptation," 2002; "Being John Malkovich," 1999). In "Her," the significant other is OS1 (as in Operating System, the voice in a phone, mobile device or personal computer.

"Her" takes place in Los Angeles of the not too-distant future where Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) works for a company as a Cyber Cyrano, composing hand-written love letters for folks at a loss for words to express their feelings to their significant others.

Theodore downloads the OS1 app and quickly becomes enthralled with the voice on the other end of the ear bud named Samantha (Who can blame hi? The voice is portrayed by Scarlett Johansson). OS1 is billed as the first artificially-intelligent operating system: "It's not just an operating system. It's a consciousness."

Soon, Theodore is swooning in circles at the amusement park, skipping across an outdoor mall and even going on a double-date picnic with his OS1 and a real-life couple.

In Theodore's "relationship" with his OS1, there are plenty of laughs, lots of romance, the ups and downs of two persons in love, and a few unexpected twists we'll let you discover should you see the film.

The subplot has to do with Amy (Amy Adams, at first unrecognizable as a modest young woman and as remarkable an actor as ever) and her flesh and blood boyfriend.

Jonze scrupulously uses flashbacks to recount Theodore's relationship with Catherine (Rooney Mara), with whom he's going through a divorce. There's a weird animated sequence, "Alien Child," of a holographic video game Theodore plays. One of the stranger scenes has to do with Samantha telling Theodore she's been communicating with the OS version of Alan Watts, a Zen philosopher.

Phoenix is remarkable as Theodore, shaping a relaxed upbeat happiness that masks his character's deep-seated loneliness.

The sets and filming locations give a sense of Disney World's Epcot. The costumes are interesting. In the future men will wear Urkel-style high-waisted pants.

"Her" is one of the more aesthetically-pleasing recently-released movies, with swaths of pastel pinks and blues in Theodore's office and an overall gauzy tone. The use of close-ups, with an eye toward the actors' eyes, is emotionally illuminating.

"Her" is hypnotic in its dialogue lure (Johannson's voice and Jonze's often poetic dialogue), mesmerizing in his rhythmic editing and casts a hypnotic awe over the movie-goer. Samantha becomes a sort of Tinker Bell with Theodore as her Peter Pan.

The soundtrack is lovely. "The Moon Song," co-written by Spke Jonze and Karen O (Karen Lee Orzolek), and sung by Johansson and Phoenix during the film, is nominated for an original song Oscar.

"Her" is also nominated for Oscars for picture, original screenplay (Jonze), original score, and production design. "Her" received a screenplay Golden Globe.

"Her" is a fascinating exploration of where humanity might be headed on the technological super highway.

As Mickey & Sylvia 1956 hit stated: "Love Is Strange" never more so when the object of one's affection is a computer hard drive.

The world of "Her," of online relationships, is closer than you think.

After a recent screening of "Her," my friend Michael Gontkosky demonstrated with his iPhone the use of Siri, a kind of Google that responds in sentences to the user's "Ask Jeeves" type questions.

What next transpired in the lobby of the multiplex eerily echoed the film "Her."

"Are you 'Her'? Mike vocalized to his phone.

"No. She is a fictional construct. Whereas, I am a virtual entity. But we can still be friends," responded Siri.

"Is there a God?" Mike asked Siri.

"I'm really not equipped to answer such questions," stated his phone.

As the announcer's voice says before the movies unreel at the multiplex: "There you have it, lucky movie lovers."

Mickey & Sylvia's 1956 hit states, "Love Is Strange." That's especially true when the object of one's affection is computer software.

The world of "Her," of virtual relationships, may be closer than you think.

Go see, "Her." Then, we'll talk. Or maybe you'd prefer to talk to your hand, firmly gripping your phone.

"Her," MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.) Rated R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity; Genre: Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi; Run time: 2 hrs., 6 min.; Distributed by Warner Bros.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Scenes for "Her" were filmed on location in Shanghai, representing Los Angeles of the future.

Box Office, Feb. 7: Movie-goers went to Legoland during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening weekend, with the animated movie about miniature plastic building blocks opening at No. 1 with an impressive $69.1 million, keeping the live-action, fact-based "The Monuments Men," opening at No .2, with $22.7 million, and passing "Ride Along," which parked at No. 3 after three weeks at No. 1, with $9.3 million, $105.1 million, four weeks;

4. "Frozen" (two Oscar nominations: animated film, song: "Let It Go"), $6.9 million, $368.6 million, 12 weeks; 5. "That Awkward Moment," $5.5 million, $16.8 million, two weeks; 6. "Lone Survivor," $5.2 million, $112.5 million, seven weeks; 7. "Vampire Academy," $4.1 million, opening; 8. "The Nut Job," $3.8 million, $50. million, four weeks; 9. "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," $3.6 million, $44.4 million, four weeks; 10. "Labor Day," $3.2 million, opening, $10.1 million, two weeks

Unreel, Feb. 14:

"About Last Night": The 1986 romantic comedy gets a makeover with an African-American cast, including Kevin Hart, Joy Bryan, Regina Hall and Bryan Callen.

"RoboCop," PG: The 'bot reboot of the 1987 original and 1990 sequel stars Joel Kinnaman as the man in the gray-black titanium suit. Abbie Cornish and Gary Oldman also star in the sci-fi thriller set in 2028 Detroit.

"Winter's Tale," PG-13: Death, reincarnation and a cat burglar. This is not your Shakespeare play. This movie's based on a 1983 novel by Mark Helprin. Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe and Will Smith star in the fantasy drama.

"Endless Love," OK, all together now sing the title song from the 1981 weeper starring Brooke Shields and (10 points if you guess it) Martin Hewiit and you may forget this romantic drama starring Gabriella Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Bruce Greenwood and Robert Patrick.

Is it me, or are there a lot of remakes this week?

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site,; the Times-News web site,; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, and, where they're archived. Email Paul Willistein: You can follow Paul Willistein on Twitter and friend Paul Willistein on facebook.

Four Popcorn Boxes Out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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