A look at the lives of teenagers and adults in a Texan town, and how technology and the Internet impacts their lives.
This week, director Jason Reitman takes on the challenge of ensemble drama, but after the misstep of Labour Day, this may not be the film that gets the director of Juno, Up in the Air and Young Adult back on track.
The cast of Men, Women & Children is a great one; Emma Thompson narrates the whole affair from afar, Adam Sandler turns back to drama, Judy Greer plays a rather manic mother and Ansel Elgort plays a charming young man on the look out for love. As well as this, Rosemarie DeWitt plays a wife bored of her marriage, Jennifer Garner takes on a role decrying the Internet and its ways, and Dean Norris plays a father trying to connect with his son.
The trouble with ensemble dramas, as we saw with last month’s Third Person, is that with so many threads running through a film, it takes a strong screenplay to pull them all together to deliver a message, and this is something that is lacking in Men, Women & Children. Despite what the UK trailer would have you believe, this is not a film about teen love, instead, the film tries to examine the impact of secrets and the internet on people’s lives, and the notion that none of this really matters anyway because, in terms of the universe, humans are insignificant. Cheery!
There is so much going on here that any one of the stories could have been pulled out and developed, in order to give the film structure and a feeling of connectedness, but instead we dip in and out of stories, seemingly at random, never truly getting a feel for the characters, other than the superficial.
As director, Jason Reitman has coaxed some believable performances from his cast, but since we never delve beneath the surface of the characters, the film quickly becomes tiresome. Instead of a meditation on the internet and its evils, audiences may well find themselves wondering why no-one logs out of accounts on shared computers, does a malware check on their PC, uses condoms and just what the internet ever did to Jennifer Garner. As well as this, Men, Women & Children takes great glee in using the schtick of displaying computer and phone messages on the big screen, and since Sherlock, this gimmick has never really been used well or effectively.
In all, Men, Women & Children tries to be a meditation on the evils of the internet, as well as an exploration of the human race’s insignificance, but ends up being superficial, muddled and uninteresting. Still, Adam Sandler doesn’t shout in the film, not even once, so that’s got to be worth an extra star.