Men, Women & Children

Before I begin this review I have to check my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo and phone texts. Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Garner, Dean Norris and Adam Sandler star in Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children.

Men Women and ChildrenCast of Characters:
Brandy Beltmeyer – Kaitlyn Dever
Helen Truby – Rosemarie DeWitt
Tim Mooney – Ansel Elgort
Patricia Beltmeyer – Jennifer Garner
Donna Clint – Judy Greer
Kent Mooney – Dean Norris
Don Truby – Adam Sandler
Narrator – voiced by Emma Thompson

Director – Jason Reitman
Screenplay – Jason Reitman & Erin Cressida Wilson
Based on the novel Men, Women & Children by Chad Kultgen
Producer – Jason Reitman & Helen Estabrook
Rated R for strong sexual content including graphic dialogue throughout-some involving teens, and for language

Men, Women & Children focuses on four families dominated by the way technology and social media has changed everyone’s life, for better or worse. Don (Adam Sandler) and Helen Truby (Rosemarie DeWitt) have been lacking communication and intimacy in their marriage for what seems like an eternity, causing her to create an account on Ashley Madison and him to seek out an online escort service. Brandy Beltmeyer (Kaitlyn Dever), frustrated at her mom Patricia’s (Jennifer Garner) overprotective online spying, has created a secret Tumblr account just to communicate with her friends. Failed actress Donna Clint (Judy Greer) has now turned into a photographer/stage mom for her daughter Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia), who’s the star of her own racy website. Still reeling over his wife abandoning him, Kent Mooney (Dean Norris) struggles to connect with his loner son Tim (Ansel Elgort), who has immersed himself in the online world of role-playing video games.

I think it’s more than telling that as I left the theater I noticed at least four other people, myself included, who immediately pulled out their cell phones and switched off into zoned-out mode.

We can only imagine what the great inventors Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell would think if they were granted just ten seconds of a glimpse into what our world looks like today. My guess is they’d think we’re a bunch of braindead sheep, and rightly so. Despite the fact that it contains the power to destroy someone’s life with just the press of a button or a mouse click, there’s still no question that there’s a necessary place for technology. Through technology we’ve been able to land on the moon, have images taken from outside of the Milky Way, cure diseases, aid disabilities and provide people across the globe with easy access to movie review websites such as silverscreenfanatic.com.

It’s my site and I’ll damn well plug it if I want to.

You’re plain ignorant, though, if you deny the fact that technology has also turned this generation into a bunch of mindless, ADD-riddled, instant access-craving dumb-asses.

The opening shot says it all with a satellite floating through space and taking a snapshot of Earth from outside the galaxy. We have the ability to do that today, just like we have the ability, as seen in the next contrasting shot, to achieve instant gratification by spanking the monkey to a plethora of cheap porn sites.

Either way, Galileo and Newton would have their minds blown.

One of the criticisms I’ve read from others that didn’t like this film is that they feel co-writer/director Jason Reitman is coming off as a melodramatic, self-righteous Luddite. I think they missed the point. Reitman’s not condemning technology here. To be fair, the film does get a little preachy at times, but he’s mainly pointing out how technology has eroded our ability to connect personally with one another.

One scene that perfectly captures that is between a group of high school cheerleaders having a seemingly cordial conversation with each other. While one is talking with the other two, those other two are texting each other belittling comments about the first girl. It’s snarky, dark, sharp, funny and profoundly pathetic as it so accurately describes our tech-obsessed culture.

I’m not gonna lie. I’m really loving this high horse I’m riding right now.

While on paper, the plot situations may seem like bullet point essentials for checking off the quota of social media ills, and as is the case with most any ensemble narrative, some subplots will be more engaging than the others (one involving an anorexic teen could’ve been taken out with little to no effect), Reitman gathers together a talented ensemble cast that delivers. Rosemarie DeWitt and Adam Sandler are terrific together as a couple who has lost all spark in their marriage. This is easily the most dialed-down and restrained I’ve seen Sandler, and it’s just a shame that I’m probably gonna have to sit through five more bull shit Happy Madison films before I get another strong performance out of him again. Judy Greer has a heartbreaking moment where she tries to backpedal and rationalize her daughter’s situation to an important caller of hers that only has her digging the hole deeper. Jennifer Garner’s character comes off as the biggest stretch out of them all with her constant online snooping of her daughter, but she brings just enough vulnerability to lend some authenticity to what could’ve been a one-note, unlikeable character.

Also strong are two of the youngest cast members, Ansel Elgort and Kaitlyn Dever, who form a bond that answers the question posed by Emma Thompson’s narration: As insignificant as we are in the grand scope of the entire known universe, is it even worth caring that we seemed to have devolved to ranking somewhere below the sponge on the list of Earth’s intelligent species?

I’ll answer that as soon as I accept this Candy Crush request.

While it’s not Jason Reitman’s finest effort and some of the smaller plot strands don’t click as well as others, Men, Women & Children is a timely film that ain’t so much about technology as it is how much it’s desensitized us. Led by a very talented cast and Reitman’s deft, low-key direction, which still finds room for his trademark sardonic humor amidst the serious tone, this is a more-than-fitting snapshot of the age we live in now.

I give Men, Women & Children an A- (★★★½).

REVIEWS COMING LATER NEXT WEEK…

10/20/14        What the Hell Were They Thinking?!
10/21/14        Benjamin’s Stash
10/23/14        The Best of Me
10/24/14        Ouija
10/24/14        St. Vincent

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