MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN
By Gary Murray
Starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Gardner and Judy Greer
Written by Jason Reitman and Erin Cressida Wilson
Directed by Jason Reitman
Running time 119 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating FORGET IT!
Jason Reitman is the new “it” director, the hip guy who makes hip films. Some of his works were Thank You for Smoking, Up in the Air and Juno. His last two films were Young Adult and Labor Day, two films that were not well-received. His latest work is the very independent Men, Women & Children.
The film is about our societal-disconnect with each other via the internet. Don (Adam Sandler) is a bored dad, watching porn and not paying attention to his wife Helen (Rosemarie DeWitt). She is just as bored as he is with their marriage. One night, she uses her computer to find a cheaters web site. Don also finds that his son is watching some seriously depraved smut.
Jennifer Garner plays Patricia. She is a hovering mother, watching just about every moment her daughter spends on-line. The woman is deadly afraid that her sweet little daughter will be exposed to the darker side of the internet. Little does mom know that her daughter has a wild website on the side. The young woman feels like herself when she plays somebody else.
Donna (Judy Greer) is a former washout actress from Hollywood who has a young cheerleader daughter. Mom takes pictures of the young woman in different outfits and in different positions, down in the basement in a little studio. The girl has world-wide fans and they pay well to get the picts they want.
Donna is seeing Kent (Dean Norris). His wife just left him and he’s trying to get back into the dating scene. His son Tim (Ansel Elgort) has recently quit the football team and just wants to play video games. This upsets the school, the coaches and Kent.
All of these threads weave together to a cinematic tapestry that is supposed to show how we have become disconnected with each other because of smart phones and technology. Everyone is always buried deep into their gadgets and never a part of the real world. It is a sophomoric idea with a Film School 101 narration (by Emma Thompson) about the Voyager spacecraft and how we are just a little blue dot in space.
The film is a narcissistic exercise in navel gazing. Director Jason Reitman has gone over the edge with this work, a mental masturbation of lauded expectations. The entire idea never finds any point that works and it becomes mind-numbingly boring.
Every adult seems to sleeping with everyone else but no one has any emotional connection to the act. They are all like dogs rutting around than mature people in mature situations. It is just a bunch of horny old people.
The kids do not come off much better than the adults do. All they care about is the next thrill and not the emotions behind it. Most of the teen cast is disconnected from any sort of reality, much more like zombies than humans. Maybe that was Jason’s cinematic point but it just rings hollow.
In the end, it feels like the makers were trying to a modern version of The Last Picture Show and ended up with a weaker version of Fear.com While some are going to praise Reitman as a man who can do no wrong, Men, Women & Children is singularly trite and a giant misstep in his career.