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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Her

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix star in a scene from the movie "Her."
Many a tech fan, over the years, may have casually declared his love for this or that cutting-edge gadget. But all would have to take a backseat to Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), the main character in the quirky romantic drama "Her" (Warner Bros.).

On the rebound from a pending divorce—Rooney Mara plays his soon-to-be-ex, Catherine—depressed Theodore, who lives in a slightly futuristic version of Los Angeles, carries geekiness to a whole new level by falling for an innovative operating system called Samantha (voice of Scarlett Johansson). He does so despite the fact that Samantha has no body other than the casing of whatever computer she's guiding.

Writer-director Spike Jonze ("Where the Wild Things Are") leaps over such issues as whether artificial intelligence can ever include emotion—the feelings at work in the central relationship are shown to be mutual—to achieve some moments of poignancy and humor. And his film's bizarre premise makes it difficult to assess, as a whole, from a real-life moral and spiritual perspective.

But numerous problematic interludes along the way to a fairly acceptable conclusion make this fit fare for the sturdiest grown-ups only.

There's much to sympathize with in Theodore's lonely plight. By day, he works as a writer for a website that provides its clients with eloquent letters designed to express to their loved ones the affection the customers themselves are unable put into words. By night, he pines for Catherine and broods over their breakup.

What little companionship Theodore enjoys comes from his supportive long-term friend and neighbor Amy (Amy Adams) and, to a lesser extent, from Amy's somewhat eccentric husband, Charles (Matt Letscher). His isolation makes Theodore's willingness to give his heart away to a perky collection of software at least marginally more believable.

But corporal considerations remain an issue—both for the characters and the audience. Early scenes, played for laughs, show Theodore's interest in racy photographs of a pregnant celebrity that are circulating on the Internet as well as his late-night, audio-only encounter with a stranger in a chatroom. Though he's left frustrated by their get-together, her satisfaction with the outcome of their conversation could hardly be more audible.

It's not surprising, then, that Samantha, all-observant where Theodore is concerned, worries about her inability to give or receive physical gratification. Yet Theodore seems content to use Samantha's voice as a stimulant to solitary pleasure.

Eventually, Samantha hits on the plan of introducing a human surrogate—a well-meaning but misguided young woman named Isabella (Portia Doubleday)—to supply the missing carnality to their bond.

All this, of course, is not for the casual movie patron or for those lacking in faith formation. Though more thoughtful than many a Hollywood offering, "Her" requires a thoroughly attentive response from those prepared—and equipped—to withstand its often seamy details.

The film contains strong sexual content, including aberrant bedroom behavior, semigraphic nonmarital sexual activity, a glimpse of full female nudity and brief obscene images as well as much rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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