“Men, Women & Children” was directed by Jason Reitman, written by Reitman and Erin Cressida Wilson and stars Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, Adam Sandler, Ansel Elgort, and Kaitlyn Dever.
Society today is run by technology. Smartphones, laptops, gaming consoles — it’s all become something that’s not just for the wealthy but for anybody. Everything is accessible, whether it be information, images, videos, or a persons life story. Having any sort of privacy is a thing of the past. Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children attempts to take a look at the lives of high school teens and their parents as they try to find their way in this technology driven world. While heavy handed and at some points rather dull, Men, Women & Children is driven by solid performances and presents a terrifyingly realistic portrayal of how technology affects the human condition in today’s society.
Don Truby (Sandler) and Helen Truby (DeWitt) are married with two children but the spark in their lives has died down and each one is looking to just feel loved and wanted again, it doesn’t matter by who. Their son Chris (Travis Tope) has never been with a girl while in high school but his image of love and sex has been warped due to his discovery of pornography. Patricia Beltmeyer (Garner) keeps a close eye on her daughter Brandy (Dever) and her usage of technology, doing weekly sweeps on her computer and her phone to make sure Brandy doesn’t get the chance to live like a normal teenager. Kent Mooney (Norris) struggles with the fact that his wife left him and his teenage son, Tim (Elgort) for another man and ran off to California.
Tim has taken it harder than his father realizes, questioning his existence and if anything he does actually matters. Tim quits football and ends up spending hours and hours playing an online role playing game to forget about the real world. Donna Clint (Greer) is a failed actress who lives her life directly through her teenage daughter Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia). Hannah dreams only of stardom, and Donna is willing to do whatever it takes to help her reach that point, even if it means going way too far. JV cheerleader Allison Doss (Elena Kampouris) spent the summer starving herself to lose a massive amount of weight after being picked on by a boy she had a crush on, Brandon (Will Peltz). When she finds herself tempted by food, she finds encouragement in the “Thinspiration” communities who let her know it’s not worth it to eat.
Men, Women & Children tackles a lot of different issues in today’s society and it does do a successful job of at least bringing up a discussion. These are issues that should be talked about — sex, body image, marriage, internet privacy, just how to stay safe in a world where everything is accessible. Unfortunately for these characters, nothing is ever actually discussed which is shockingly realistic especially in a society that would rather hide behind a screen than speak about anything. What makes Men, Women & Children a movie to keep an eye on though is the performances — especially that of Adam Sandler. Sandler is obviously known for his comedic, outlandish roles in pointless comedies that are money making machines. But when he’s given the chance to be serious, he’s shown more than once that he’s very, very good when he wants to be.
When compared to his previous films, Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children has a hard time stacking up. While better than Labor Day, it feels like Reitman has lost what made him such an appealing director in the first place. With his first four films (Thank You For Smoking, Juno, Up In The Air, Young Adult) Reitman was able to inject humor into more serious societal issues such as smoking and teen pregnancy. While he tries to regain that form in Men, Women & Children, it just feels forced. There are a few chuckles here and there but for the most part the movie just feels a bit lifeless. It’s sad to think that just a few years ago Jason Reitman was at the top of his game with Up In The Air, but Reitman is too good of a filmmaker to not reach that point again sometime soon.
The film is now playing in New York and Los Angeles and will hit theaters in wider release on October 17.