Tuesday, February 14, 2017


I started to watch Her on Friday night for only the second time. My first time was in the theater, of course, on the last day of my ranking year in 2013 (so it was January of 2014). Three years later, I've never given it the chance to prove that I was wrong when I gave it a reluctant four stars (out of five) and ranked it "only" 21st for the year. I suspect I might have ranked it lower if I'd had more time to think about it and if I weren't so shocked that what I pegged as a contender for my #1 movie kind of disappointed me.

The second chance didn't come Friday night either, even though I was fresh off the Black Mirror episode "San Junipero," which put me in the mood for another technology-enabled love story set in the future. When my wife saw me starting it at the time when she would normally peel off to go to bed, she showed unmistakable signs of interest -- you know, the kind that says "I'm not going to stop you from watching this right now but I am kind of interested in watching this too." Her own first experience was inevitably underwhelming as she saw it in the company of our infant son at one of those "Mums and Bubs" sessions (they call them "Babes in Arms" in the U.S.). When I put the question to her directly, she did indeed say she'd watch it with me soon. As such, it remains a possible option for our Valentine's Day viewing tonight.

Which is how I came across this image above, perusing the choices on Netflix for Valentine's Day.

And what a strange image this is indeed.

If there's going to be a single person pictured in an advertisement for Her, you'd figure it would be Joaquin Phoenix, right? After all, the most common advertising image from the movie is this one:

Same color scheme. Same font for the title.

Not the same actor.

That's not only not Joaquin Phoenix, it's also not Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt or Olivia Wilde.

It's not even the disembodied voice of Scarlett Johansson.

It's not even the disembodied voice of Kristen Wiig as "Sexy Kitten Voice" or Bill Hader as "Chat Room Friend #2."

No, it's an actor named Matt Letscher, who plays "Charles." And as I watch this movie again, you better bet I'm going to pay intention to just what exactly he does in this movie that warrants making him the face of it on Netflix.

Matt Letscher did look a little familiar to me, but not from Her. No, it turns out he played ambassador Chris Stevens in Michael Bay's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. And though he was certainly good enough in it -- good enough to make me really consider his character's passing to be tragic -- I wouldn't consider him one of the first half-dozen faces to promote that movie either, even though he plays a far more central role there.

I have to think this is some weird failure of Netflix's Australian wing. I mean, you wouldn't get something like this in the U.S., would you? I think not.

Career-wise, Letscher is no slouch. IMDB shows him as incredibly busy. But he's appearing mostly in TV shows that, while acclaimed, are shows I happen not to be watching. Shows like The Flash, Boardwalk Empire, Scandal, Castle and The Carrie Diaries. Well, maybe not all acclaimed.

I would almost understand it if Letscher were an Australian actor and this were just some kind of provincial attempt to big-up the homegrown talent. But no, Letscher was born in Grosse Point, Michigan. Since he seems a little bland to me ... would it be too mean to refer to him as a Grosse Point blank?

Is it some kind of rights issue? Does Netflix own the right to stream the movie, but not to feature the likeness of any of its half-dozen most prominent stars? Stars who, almost without exception, are up to incredibly big things in the movies these days?

Letscher may get there, but it should not be on the back of Her.

Especially as it inspires people like me to write incredulous posts like this one.

Check back tomorrow, probably, to determine what we did end up choosing for Valentine's Day. And a happy Valentine's Day to you, wherever you are.

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