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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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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, keep me in your care. Guard me in my actions. Teach me to love, and help me to turn to you throughout the day. The world is filled with temptations. As I move through my day, keep me close. May those I encounter feel your loving presence. Lord, be the work of my hands and my heart. Amen.

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