MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN is a continuation of the tragic career downfall of director Jason Reitman. After peaking with THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, JUNO, UP IN THE AIR and the incredibly underrated YOUNG ADULT; Reitman has managed to release two of the worst movies of 2014. Jason Reitman’s first 2014 dud LABOR DAY was a ridiculous Oscar-baiting tearjerker with a romantic pie making scene that deserves to live in bad movie infamy. LABOR DAY seemed like the work of a director trying his hand at something less comedic and missing the mark. But MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN is a troubling sign that the slump of his previous movie may be here to stay.
Men, Women & Children film follows the lives of high schoolers and adults as they navigate their way through sex and relationships in the social media and smartphone era. Adam Sandler (In an excellent serious role) and Rosemary DeWitt play an unhappy suburban couple who begin to see other people they meet online. Dean Norris is a father whose wife left him while his son quits the football team to play Guild Wars. Meanwhile, Judy Greer plays a failed actress who attempts to help her daughter become famous by posting racy pictures online to create a portfolio website. All these plots intertwine, but never bother to make a statement on anything besides, “The internet is terrible and so are we.”
In the most offensively bad subplot of them all, Jennifer Garner plays a #ConcernedMom who wants to check on her teenage daughter by using a variety of cyberstalking techniques that would make the NSA proud. Whether having all her daughter’s passwords, reading her text messages that she prints in novel sized logs, or going through her computer on a weekly basis; her character makes hyper-overprotective parents in Lifetime Original Movies seem like grounded and realistic human portrayals. Given that we now live in an age where apps like Snapchat can destroy messages in 10 seconds and that parents are generally incompetent with computers, this movie has the technical authenticity of hacker movies where characters clang on keyboards loudly to “hack the mainframe.” This movie begs for an ironic retrospective in 10 years when all the technology becomes as outdated as the suitcase cellphones in 80s action movies.
The topic of how the internet has altered human interaction is fascinating subject material for a movie. Have our iPhones made us stop living in the moment? Has the internet changed people for the worse? Are likes and shares our only form of gratification nowadays? If there was a time to make a movie about this idea, it’s certainly now. Unfortunately, MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN doesn’t really care about answering any of these questions. This movie is a 2 hour screed that plays like a cyber-fear-mongering remake of the Best Picture winning atrocity, CRASH.
At no point does this movie attempt to talk about the ways in which the online world can bring people closer together while simultaneously creating disconnections. Reitman only cares about the negative aspects and subsequently comes across as the directorial equivalent of an angry Parent Teacher Committee Mom. Shock horror! People are jerking off to porn! And playing those gosh-darn MMORPG games like Guild Wars! And finding sex via the internet! The internet is so dang AWFUL. Meanwhile, the trailer and poster for this movie are promoted via the film’s twitter account and you can even use the hashtag #MWC.
Men, Women & Children approaches technology in a pre-Snapchat, pre-Tinder, and pre-Catfish era. Regardless of CATFISH’s staged preposterousness, the movie and show have brought forth a discussion on who we make ourselves online; something that MEN, WOMEN, & CHILDREN renders a non-issue by having this movie not question it at all. The ways we communicate online and meet people continue to evolve, yet this movie treats the internet like it hasn’t evolved since 2010. Jason Reitman fails to understand the crucial idea that there are good and bad places within the internet. By only focusing on the negative aspects, there’s no debate but only an unfocused rant. It’s as if he went to 4chan, saw funeral selfies, watched some news reports about the internet and decided, “Yup. The internet is very dangerous.”
As these meaningless cautionary tales progress over a seemingly endless 119 minute running time, the film cuts back to shots of outer space narrated by Emma Thompson to bludgeon the audience with the idea of how alone we are in the universe. Yes. This movie is pretentious enough to open with shots of outer space while we hear narration about the launch of The Voyager.
Eventually, Men, Women & Children explodes into preposterous melodrama and attempts to conveniently (and poorly) mend it all together within the course of 5 minutes. If you ever wanted to see a film attempt to create create emotional closure by watching a USB stick being removed, this is your movie. But by that point, who cares? The idea that we are all alone in the perspective of the universe is later reiterated 40 minutes in by a high schooler character who explains that nothing matters and everything is insignificant. And at this point, you too will wonder to yourself, “Why does this shitty movie matter either?”
MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN (2014)
DIR. JASON REITMAN
NOW PLAYING- $ome Overpriced Co$t
AMC LOEWS BOSTON COMMON
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