Men Women & Children Review

The Plot

Emma Thompson narrates Jason Reitman’s latest comedy drama, which delves into impact of technology among a whole host of characters young and old. Various interwoven stories explore how the advent of ever present social media has forever changed notions of privacy, intimacy and identity.

The Good

Opening with a shot of a satellite floating in the atmosphere above us, accompanied by the soothing tone of Emma Thompson’s voice, Men, Women and Children almost seems like a documentary. But it’s not long till we’re brought back down to earth as director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up In The Air) studies various character driven stories all focusing on the dangers of the internet. Given the constant debate about whether social media is really helping or hindering communication and recent celebrity photo leaks, it’s a timely and provocative theme.

The main issue he tends to focus on is that of sex and pornography. Whether it’s Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt as a couple who turn to dating sites and escort services, or Donna Clint (Judy Greer) and her daughter’s ‘acting website’, Men, Women and Children certainly has some interesting story lines which will make you question how pervasive the internet has become in our lives.

The most interesting segment of Reitmans collection of stories however, is that of the young teens played by Ansel Elgort (The Fault In Our Stars) and Kaitlyn Dever (Short Term 12). Elgort plays Tim Mooney, a former member of his schools football team who is abused through texts after letting the team down when he quits to shut himself away in an online game. Unlike Tim who is left to his own devices by his dad as he whittles away time online, Dever’s character, Brandy, is instead tracked, traced and generally trapped by her over-protective mother (played spectacularly by Jennifer Garner) who trusts her daughter so little that she installs a device to literally record every keystroke Brandy makes on her computer.

These stories force audience in a very immediate way to evaluate our own decisions about the prominence of technology in our lives and how the internet may be adversely affecting children and their parents. It’s easy to connect with each of these characters because the dilemmas and decisions they face will feel relevant ad familiar to our own lives.

The Bad

With plenty of stories to delve into, it’s such a shame that the narrative structure is overall the weakest part of Men Women and Children. Reitman has already done plenty to prove that he has a knack for writing smart humor that is cleverly underplayed with Juno and Up In The Air, but his latest effort doesn’t quite capture the same magic. In particular it would be easy for audiences to mistake Adam Sandler’s muted performance for boredom.

The film’s opening scene sets up Emma Thompson as the well chosen narrative voice for the film, tying together various stories from a detached vantage point, visually manifested as a satellite drifting ever further from earth and out into space. Though deployed often during the first half of the film, her voice becomes a diminished and infrequent presence as the film progresses, leaving the various story lines to struggle on under their own dramatic weight.

The film is undeniably ambitious in trying to tackle such substantial emotional and technological themes, but this perhaps proves overly ambitious for its 116 minute run time.

The Ugly Truth

While it doesn’t always match the exceedingly high standards set by his previous films, Jason Reitman’s latest is an interesting attempt to provide a commentary on the excessive  use of internet in our daily lives. Though the film could perhaps be more concise, accomplished performances and important ideas ensure audience will be compelled to think about exactly how much of our lives is spent looking at computer screens.

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