Men, Women & Children

Men, Women & Children [2014]

Men, Women & Children [2014] is the latest dramedy from Jason Reitman (Juno, Up In The Air) that pulls together an impressive ensemble consisting of Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, Emma Thompson and others as both parents and high school teens struggling through our technologically rooted life.

Pale Blue Plot. One character shares his love of the audio reading of Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot”, commenting on how relieved it makes him to know that in the grand scheme of things none of this really matters. This point is driven home from the opening shot of NASA’s Voyager travelling through our solar system farther and farther away from the miniscule spec that houses all of our hopes, dreams, lies, and deceits. All of our phone calls, texts, posts, shares, likes, guilds, karma, etc. As the varied group of characters in the film go about their lives, struggling with their marriage, with intimacy, with new relationships, with loss, we’re constantly visited by shots of the Voyager making its way into the great unknown. All of this that we struggle through, that makes up the important and detrimental moments of our existence, all of it is has no impact on the universe come the end of the day.

Beware The Interwebz! The film tries so hard to give a consistent amount of time to the many individuals in the story, driving home specific scenarios and how technology hurts or hinders communication or just ourselves. Jennifer Garner plays an extreme mother who has weekly checks through her daughter’s computer, browsing history, cell phone usage, and so on. A device set in her room tracks every keystroke and forwards every message to her own phone so she can ensure her daughter’s protection. We watch as both sides of a sparkless marriage use the internet to cheat using Ashley Madison or escort services. Teens going through hardships living out their digital lives to escape. And of course the use (and potential negatives) of pornography on our expectations and desires.

Accidental Point In Plot. It ultimately balances out well over the nearly two hour run time. Literally everyone in the cast gives a great performance whether they’re significant or otherwise. The writing feels honest for the most part, and there’s plenty of moments that are funny and relatable in between what’s always clearly a message meant to be driven home to the audience. Besides feeling a bit heavy handed the ultimate fault lies in the final minutes of the many stories. The conclusions for some characters don’t seem as significantly received as the moment being played out would have you expect. These people are having life changing realizations but it only seems like another lesson has been learned for the day. What’s worst is that some plots seem to kind of fade away, not really given much closure at all. While Emma Thompson’s inconsistent narration continues to remind us of Voyager and our ultimate insignificance I don’t feel that the story was intended to make any of these particular characters fall into the great unknown after spending so much time with them.

Is Reitman The Right Man? Jason Reitman is a consistent filmmaker in many respects, but most of all is in his quality of work and in his storytelling. He’s competent behind the camera, he works with great talent and always gets great work out of them, and the stories he tells are always interesting and honest. The thing that separates this film from his previous productions is that everything before focused on only one or two characters whereas this film has at least ten main characters that are focused on and developed. Like previously stated it’s all handled well through a majority of the film but come the end it seems that characters don’t reach the places they were meant to and others simply disappear.

The Stone Age. It’s a film about teen angst, sexuality, adultery, over-protectiveness, and the ultimate insignificance of it all in the grand scheme of the universe. It’s timely because it focuses so heavily on technology’s role in it all, but one can’t forget that all of these themes have been around long before technology rooted itself as a standard part of our everyday lives.

Strong ensemble work with relatable themes and characters makes this a message worth forwarding, but not to your entire address book.
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