The times we live in are scary, exciting and technology laden. It is hard to see where we are going as a species. Technology has helped us in many ways and yet the anonymity afforded to us by social media has gotten a little scary. Incidents of cyber terrorism, bullying and just plain spewing of hateful things has gotten easier. Men, Women & Children by director Jason Reitman (Young Adult, Juno) attempts to look at how technology has affected the lives of your average American of any age.
There are no ifs, and or buts about it the Internet has changed the way we live our lives. Each segment of the story has to deal with different aspects of technology and its intersection with family life. One is a middle aged couple, Don (Adam Sandler – Grown Ups, Happy Gilmore) and Helen (Rosemarie Dewitt – Cinderella Man, The Watch), who have fallen into a relationship rut and turn to Internet porn, escorts and adultery websites to spice things up. Patricia Beltmeyer (Jennifer Garner – from television’s Alias) does everything she can to monitor her teenage daughter Brandy’s (Kaitlyn Dever – Bad Teacher, J. Edgar) online and cell phone activity including reading everything and having all her passwords. Donna Clint (Judy Greer – from television’s Archer) takes photos of her head cheerleader daughter Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia – from television’s Rescue Me) in order to post them on the aspiring actress/reality show star’s website. Kent Mooney (Dean Norris – from television’s Breaking Bad), after recently breaking up with his wife, is worried that his teenage son Tim (Ansel Elgort – The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent), who quit playing football, is spending too much time playing a video game. Allison (Elena Kampouris – Labor Day) is a teenager who is also a cheerleader and is on a starvation diet in which when she is hungry she turns to an anorexia website for support.
Director Jason Reitman has made a career out of making films about damaged people, dysfunctional families and awkward moments. In other words he is interested in portraying American culture with all its warts. He delicately handles a lot of tricky subjects like pursuit of fame, body image and eating disorders, extramarital affairs, and even addiction to Internet porn. Due to the potentially heavy nature of it all Reitman wisely allows plenty of humour to seep in to break up the tension when it gets too thick.
The acting from this large ensemble cast is strong with the biggest surprise being Adam Sandler. I seem to forget that the guy can act when given the right material to work with. This is his first dramatic film since Reign Over Me and he does a good job portraying the middle age man who does not know what to do when his wife no longer seems to want to have sex with him. Where will he turn?
Has technology led to us to not remembering how to connect with the people right in front of us? That is the question posed by the film and the answer is left very open ended. It is a film that will encourage dialogue from anyone who has watched it no matter the age.