The social implications that technology has affected over the last ten years is front and centre in Jason Reitman’s dramedy about isolation and connection with the people in our lives. Featuring an ensemble cast with no real weak links, Men, Women and Children manages to do what so many films have failed, to make a commentary on an issue that is so prevalent today and have it stay with you long after the film is over.
Long-time married couple Don (Adam Sandler) and Helen (Rosemarie DeWitt) are in a functioning, if not boring and sexless relationship, leaving Don to his own devices in the way of porn. Seemingly their 15-year-old son Chris (Travis Tope) also uses his computer for things other than homework, but his tastes are so extreme that he can’t ‘get it up’(for lack of a better term) without the use of his laptop. He is in a sexting relationship with Queen B classmate Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia), who has her own website dedicated to her acting career, but also appeals to online predators and creeps thanks to her hapless mother Donna (Judy Greer) who has put a ‘for your eyes only’ section on the website. Hannah’s cheerleading teammate Allison (Elena Kampouris) has serious body issues, relying on websites that promote eating disorders in order to think thin and impress her crush, with disastrous results. Patricia (Jennifer Garner) takes overprotectiveness to a whole new level while she monitors her daughter Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever) interactions, complete with phone tracking devices and access to all her daughters identities and interactions on the internet. But trouble comes in the form of former football star turned moody express Tim (Ansel Elgort), whose connection with Brandy is one of the few honest and functioning relationships in the film, and thus is sabotaged by Patricia and Tim’s recently divorced father Kent (Dean Norris), who is just trying to understand and communicate with his son.
With an ensemble cast, there is almost always a noticeable weak link in the acting department, but here everyone is on point, if not a little restricted in their roles. Sandler is great as the working class man in a sexless marriage, and he seems to showcase his acting talents (because they do exist) every couple of years just to remind people he isn’t the goofball man child most audiences identify him as. Garner, who has been making some great choices of late, is honest in her portrayal as the intended antagonist whose ill-fated attempts at protecting her child clearly come from a place of love and concern. Adding to the story is the Narrator (voiced by Emma Thompson) whose candour when to comes to reality, that we are all in fact specs of dust in an otherwise infinite universe, moves the story to an even more thoughtful place.
The thing that struck a chord with me most was just the complete and total raw honesty of the film. Men, Women and Children could have easily drifted off into cheesy territory and the message would be lost. Instead Reitman has managed to keep the message simple and his plot focused and clear, keeping the audience engrossed and often times laughing, while also teaching us a valuable lesson about the harsh realities of the virtual world. Yes, this message has been drummed into our brains since the dawn of new technologies, but not in such a way has a message quite been delivered as honestly as this.
A terrific cast and a simplistic approach to film making has cemented Men, Women and Children as a must watch this year. The intent is clear, and the result is a film that is an honest commentary on how social media affects all our relationships, both personal and familial. Regardless of your stance on the matter this movie is worth seeing, for the conversations you have after it is over are well worth the price of admission.
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