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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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Augustine of Hippo: A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: Many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience. 
<p>There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother (August 27), the instructions of Ambrose (December 7) and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love. </p><p>Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadent—politically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism. </p><p>In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. “I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, please fill my heart and soul with the confidence that you will always provide what I need, when I need it, and let me be obedient to you.

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