Sunday, October 5, 2014

Review: Men, Women and Children

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
For some time now, I've felt that our constant need to plug into technology is causing a great disconnect in our society and I'm sure there's a great movie about that theme just waiting to be made. So, it's a shame that Jason Reitman's "Men, Women and Children" is not that movie. For a better example, check out David Fincher's scathing "Gone Girl," which opened this week, or Spike Jonze's recent "Her."

Reitman's film features a huge cast of character actors playing a variety of people whose lives are being damaged in some shape or form by the constant use of the Internet, video games, iPhones, YouTube, you name it.

The plotlines include a husband (Adam Sandler) who masturbates to online porn, his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) who considers hooking up with a stranger she met online, a father (Dean Norris) and his video game obsessed son (Ansel Elgort) who are down in the dumps after the lady of the house ran off with another man, a 15-year-old who has trouble getting an erection without the use of online porn, a mother (Jennifer Garner) whose surveillance of her daughter's online activities rivals that of Big Brother, a narrator (Emma Thompson) whose place in the narrative is never fully explained and - in the picture's most ludicrous plot thread - a mom (Judy Greer) who doesn't realize that posting semi-clothed pictures of her teenage daughter on the Internet not only won't boost her acting career, but is also kind of wrong and might attract creeps.

There's enough anxious technology-induced tension in "Men, Women and Children" to cause your iPhone to crack, but no story is fleshed out enough to help it rise from being generic and the material is all presented in a manner better suited to a late 1990s indie movie about dysfunctional families.

The movie is not as bad as I've made it sound. Most of the cast does the best they can with the material and there are some scenes that work, including one in which Norris and Greer attend a meeting with Garner's obsessed mother about the dangers of being online.

Reitman is a talented filmmaker and I enjoyed his "Juno" and "Young Adult" and thought "Up in the Air" was one of the best movies of 2009. His latest endeavors - the slightly overwrought "Labor Day" from earlier this year and, now, this - haven't worked as well for me. Hopefully, he will bounce back with his next film and may it not be so solemn as his latest two works.

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