Film Review – Men, Women & Children
Men, Women & Children
It’s high time we stage an intervention for Jason Reitman, guys. It won’t be pleasant but he needs to hear the truth about how his actions of late have affected us. You go ahead and take Labor Day and I’ll cover Men, Women & Children. We’ll get through this together.
Reitman made a satirical splash with his debut film, 2005’s Thank You For Smoking. He managed to deliver a biting commentary on the shamelessness of tobacco companies, balancing his once trademarked sardonic wit with a real message. More importantly, though, he did it without it coming off like a lecture. Juno, while never a favorite of mine, again struck this balance and offered further proof of an assured director with something to say. Young Adult and Up In The Air packed a one-two punch of the dangers of loneliness yet still maintained a keen sense of humor, garnering Oscar nods aplenty. Then last year he was abducted by aliens and replaced by an extraterrestrial sap happy duplicate whose primary occupation was tone-deafness.** (**not confirmed)
Last year’s Labor Day was an enormous misfire and introduced a whole new generation to the concept of treacle. And here he is just one year later with Men, Women & Children, a sprawling mish-mash of propaganda and scare tactics. Based on Chad Kultgen‘s novel, Children zeroes in on a suburban Texas town and all the subdued havoc brought upon by technology in the modern world. It opens with some puzzling narration by Emma Thompson over footage of Voyager 1’s journey and boy oh boy are we just getting started.
Don Truby (Adam Sandler) has a porn addiction and his loveless marriage with wife Trudy (Rosemarie DeWitt) isn’t helping. Don’s 15 year old son Chris (Travis Trope) is also a slave to pornography, though his tastes veer more towards sadism and humility. Don discovers this when checking his son’s internet history and is more intrigued than disturbed. Chris’s addiction has ruined his affinity for “vanilla” sex and leads to one of the most awkward losing-your-virginity scenes to ever grace a movie house. Don, meanwhile, takes his obsessions to another level when hiring an escort online but it’s cool, Trudy is getting some on the side too. WAIT, THERE’S MORE..
Donna (Judy Greer) manages a risqué website for her underage teenage daughter (Olivia Crocicchia) while romancing newly divorced Kent (Dean Norris) whom she met at an, I’m not joking, anti-internet support group. Kent is alarmed when his son Kent (Ansel Elgort) quits football in favor of an online roleplaying game and seeks the advice of support group founder Patricia (Jennifer Garner). Patricia is a hysterically over-protective mother who monitors her daughter’s online activity and purchases equipment that allows her to intercept and delete texts before they ever even reach her.
And on. And on. And on.
I get it, people. Hell, I’ve been accused of being a slave to my phone myself. Portable technology has led to a certain aloofness in our society and it’s probably gonna get worse. But Reitman’s way of showing us this desensitization is to have all of his actors deliver lines as if they’ve just been lobotomized, making for a painstakingly long 2 hour picture. He employs a device, too, in which we as viewers see each character’s online interaction via bubbles above their head. Pretty cool until you stop and think about how outdated these visual images will be within a year.
Look, Reitman’s assembled a dynamite cast and Sandler in particular shines. Unfortunately, this movie has nothing to say and too much time to say it. I wish I could delete it from my history.