The internet and the many electronic communication tools now readily available to tens of millions of people around the world can be useful, harmful, advantageous and disastrous. Sometimes all at the same time.
This is the idea behind Jason Reitman’s new film Men, Women and Children which follow multiple storylines in how individuals react and interact with internet, video game, text messaging and on-line dating services in their daily lives.
Adam Sandler, JK Simmons, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, Rosemarie Dewitt and Kaitlyn Dever are among a familiar face cast that deals with tough subjects such as anorexia, infidelity, sexting, parental controls on internet usage and the desire to be famous. All subjects are impacted by the use of communication tools and all stories eventually lead to the realization of how society has become dependent on communication tools that only erodes further the disconnect we have with our own friends and family.
Reitman (Up in the Air, Juno) interweaves these stories with only the setting of the town as the only common thread. Each individual story stands on its own and none are more or less interesting than another keeping audiences engaged without a ‘go back to that story’ thought among the many.
Sandler puts away his comedic chops in a much better performance than his dramatic turn in Punch Drunk Love as a father who is addicted to online porn (so much so that when his personal computer becomes unusable, he resorts to pleasuring himself in his son’s room using his kin’s laptop). Sandler along with Garner, who plays an overprotective mother who controls and monitors all ongoing phone and internet conversations of her young daughter, are the most familiar faces on the screen but much like Paul Haggis’ Crash, they are simply part of an ensemble that is perfectly cast throughout.
The film uses pop-up graphics to let audiences in on various text messages being composed and there is a scattered narration by Emma Thompson throughout the film that helps speed up some character development. All bring us back to the idea that technology has advanced to a point where it is damaging our societal values and that this detrimental crutch is ripping holes in the fabric of our communication with one another.
The message is nothing we don’t already know. But there are enough characters and situations thrust about in Men, Women & Children that you are likely to see yourself and some of your friends and family in many of the characters and we are sure that it was Reitman’s intention to use this platform to have us inflect on our own present circumstances.
Men, Women & Children is not as good as Reitman’s previous efforts namely, Juno and Up in the Air, but it is an eye opening lesson that is a sad statement on where we are as a society and where we might be headed in the future. Bleak and realistic, Men, Women & Children is a worthy effort – a frightening and sad commentary, but a worthy one.
Men, Women & Children will have a wide release on October 17th.
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