Men, Women & Children Movie Review – In the last decade, our reliance on the Internet and cellphone tech has increased to the point where many of us have forgotten how to connect on a personal (human) level. We started talking to each other through forums and chat rooms, then text messaging and video conferencing, social media, online dating… the list goes on. Of course many advantages come from the ability to become instantly ‘connected’ to another person almost anywhere in the world. And then there’s the darker side of such an overload if false connection – cyber crime, identity theft, online prostitution, depression, etc. Some of the more disturbing aspects of this were explored in a 2013 film starring Jason Bateman, “Disconnect” – a collection of vignettes that overlapped in storyline, loosely tying together the varying experiences of the characters in something of a social commentary that could be eye-opening for some. You can also check out m review of “Disconnect” on MovieFloss!
The formula of overlapping vignettes is also utilized in the latest Jason Reitman film, “Men, Women & Children” – though the characters’ actions have a much greater influence on one another because they all live in the same community. There’s the unhappily married couple (played by Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt) who have simply become bored with each other; the son and father of a broken family (Ansel Elgort and Dean Norris); an over-protective mother and her repressed daughter (Jennifer Garner and Kaitlyn Dever); and a few other interesting multi-character dichotomies. Each character is tied into the technological matrix in some manner, contributing in their own way to the mess that has become the digitally-connected community.
Life is complex enough as it is. Bullying, adultery, playing games with friends, gossiping about crushes at school – these all used to be so much simpler. Now there’s a whole new layer to consider. The digital layer. One where the rules of society just don’t seem to apply the same way they do in the physical world. Each character in “Men, Women & Children” has their own obstacles, self-doubts, etc that are amplified by the convoluted haziness that is their supposed connection to others – but it’s the only connection they are accustomed to having.
Sandler and Garnett truly open up their acting wings a bit, offering a look into personas we don’t often see them portrait. And yet, these characters feel very much like people we know – a friend, perhaps even a loved one. Ansel Elgort, having recently acted in “The Fault in Our Stars”, plays the perfectly angst-ridden teen with a grim outlook on the universe… until he meets Brandy (Dever), the girl at school who’s under constant cyber surveillance from her mother. This leads to something of a Romeo & Juliet progression in their story. It’s only one of the many unique relationships that is forged, and tested, within the digital realm.
Some of the scenarios in Reitman’s latest project may seem nightmarish to some people. Many parents can’t sleep at night because they worry so much about what their kids are exposed to on the Internet; or wondering if their spouse is cheating on them, etc. That said, these are very real concepts that are portrayed with a moderate level of satirical humor – the kind that relies on the personal pains of the main characters; and sometimes, entire crowds of people who are practically compared to lemurs. In other words: this film will have you laughing, as well as feeling the characters’ struggles – because they’re all situations that we can relate to. This film is honest, almost upsettingly so… and it’s also quite beautiful. But then, what else would you expect from the director of “Juno” and “Thank You for Smoking”.