fatpie42’s review published on Letterboxd:
I'd heard from plenty of people that, in spite of all the images of his odd moustache and dress sense, Phoenix wouldn't actually be playing a withdrawn character but would actually be playing an ordinary person. No sorry, that character Phoenix is playing is definitely a withdrawn figure - and what's more a withdrawn figure who mostly talks with breathy mumbling. Yeah sure, he's in love, whatever. The point is that he's very inexpressive. I've seen plenty of characters intentionally played as withdrawn and socially awkward who've been a lot more expressive than Phoenix is here.
And that's my biggest problem here. Not only did I feel mostly unmoved, but I was thoroughly bored. Okay, so the central idea of the artificially intelligent operating system who is pretty much a person in its own right is explored in a very cool way. That part works very well and seeing as she was brought in late on after the work with Samantha Morton apparently didn't have the intended effect, Scarlett Johansson does a very impressive job here. Heck, ironically she ends up coming across as the most realistic character in the entire film.
Unfortunately, the world outside of the operating system just never feels real to me. Our protagonist is playing a computer game where a character he meets in the game swears at him and acts like an obnoxious teenager. It's really weird and I find it hard to understand why the protagonist would want to play that game. Meanwhile the protagonist's job is to write love letters for other people, because he can be more poetic and eloquent than they can. But I couldn't help but be confused as to how such an enterprise would work. Wouldn't they notice that their loved one isn't normally poetic like that? Wouldn't Pheonix be lacking the intimate knowledge of their partner which you'd need in order to write something that personal? When he finally sent these letters isn't it likely that many of them would turn out to be entirely unsuitable? (One letter talks about hitting another woman until she has the same crooked tooth that he loves so much on his girlfriend. What kind of person even wants a letter like that from their boyfriend?)
It's a film about romance and chemistry, but I'm afraid I found that, while the film is pretty enough, it simply didn't click with me. I am incompatible with this film.
My full review is here: