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MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN (review)

men_women_and_childrenMEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN
Written by Jason Reitman and Erin Cressida Wilson
Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring Adam Sandler, Rosemarie DeWitt and Ansel Elgort
 

timm1026 (on tumblr): feeling so alone and empty

The first thing I did when I finished watching Jason Reitman’s latest opus was to take to Twitter to share my thoughts on how much I enjoyed the film. If you’ve seen it, then you know how ironic that is. MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN attempts to break down the walls we’ve erected around ourselves in Western society, with our online personas and advancements in communication. By now, it is somewhat plain to suggest that the abundance of tools made available to us to improve our communication with each other is actually making it more difficult for us to make any meaningful impressions. That said, Reitman paints this picture for us here with urgency and vibrance, making his point quite poignantly while proving that some modes can still communicate quite effectively.

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MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN, based on the Chad Kultgan novel, is an ensemble piece that takes Reitman back to the suburbs. And while many filmmakers have struggled to convey the omnipresent other world of texting and virtual conversation on screen, Reitman gets it right. Through a combination of voiceover narration (as read dryly and brilliantly by Emma Thompson) and a juxtaposition between the events unfolding and the mission of the Voyager spacecraft, Reitman establishes a certain level of quiet but unsettling panic. This leads to all, young and old, to cling to their devices and social media as a means to control their environments and to convince themselves that they do in fact matter. Whether we’re focused on Adam Sandler (in his best dramatic role since PUNCH DRUNK LOVE) and Rosemarie DeWitt, whose marriage has gotten stale over time and who both seek out validation from strangers online, or their teenage son (Travis Tope) who cannot arouse himself sexually without the aid of pornography that falls outside the realm of what is considered normal by society, we are exposed to a number of people who cannot connect with RL (that’s text shorthand for Real Life, in case you didn’t know) who turn to the Internet for understanding. The trouble is that the Internet is only confusing matters further. How else can you describe a scenario where a teenager learns his mother is remarrying on Facebook before she blocks him from seeing her profile?

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Reitman struggled with his own identity in his last venture (LABOR DAY) but instead of going back to the familiar to put himself back on track, he tackles a new tone that falls in a similar vein to Sam Mendes’ AMERICAN BEAUTY or Todd Fields’ LITTLE CHILDREN. In many ways, MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN is an extension of his voice, the growth he was perhaps looking for with LABOR DAY, but that was just outside his reach there. Regardless, he navigates his way through this project with great poise and insight, allowing the truths he is trying to tell to speak for themselves and to resonate clearly in our minds. And while some of his resolution is a little lacking in weight compared to the initial set up, MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN is a fine return to form for Reitman and an honest account of what it means to connect with others in this day and age.

4 sheep

 

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