By Anna Power TLE Film Editor @TLE_Film
After last year’s “Let’s put a roof on this house” Labor Day debacle, Jason Reitman’s back with Men, Women and Children, following in the footsteps of Spike Jonze’ fascinating futuristic film Her, Reitman seeks to explore our very ‘new’ relationship with technology and its impact on how we relate both to ourselves and each other in its wake.
It’s a brave new world, with big brother watching us and us watching each other. Never before has there been such a subtle and insidious shift in the cultural paradigm than now and it’s all happened recently in the last decade or so, since technology became omnipresent; our work, business, social lives, and let’s face it, the vast majority of our daily interactions are conducted through a technological filter; at once making communication easier and at the same time creating an invisible wall to hide behind, increasing our degree of separateness from one another. The true impact of this is hard to assess, such is the nature of technology’s ubiquitous assimilation into our lives, but changing us, and our interpersonal relationships, it is. So this is important ground to be covered by contemporary filmmakers if we are to depict our lives as they truly are, in all their multidimensional complexity, but is Jason Reitman the one to do it?
Reitman cannot be accused of not thinking big enough with Men, Women and Children, from cosmos to microcosm he puts a small community of parents and high school kids under the microscope, exploring their relationships through their communications – all of it, the texting, sexting, messaging, social media -flirtations, identity creations and misunderstandings, are assimilated into the daily grind of their waking lives. The film flutters with web pages and messages, code and data floating above characters as they go about their lives. Visually this is highly effective and there are moments of jaw dropping brilliance throughout the film, when you feel the hairs stand on the back of your neck, because you are seeing what you know to be true beamed back at you; unfortunately this isn’t consistent and the story soon drifts into the malaise of predictable over-produced drama and molasses-thick plot lines, so dense it’s like wading through treacle.
Men, Women and Children acts as a cautionary tale on the potential pitfalls of the internet and social media. Jennifer Garner plays anxious, cripplingly-controlling mother Patricia Beltmeyer, afraid at the loss of control over her daughter’s (Kaitlyn Dever) web-world interactions, particularly with love interest Tim Mooney (Ansel Elgort) the two young actors yielding tender and thoughtful performances. Adam Sandler and Rosemarie Dewitt are the Trubys, acting out on their marital boredom with the helpful ease the Internet provides.
The film was adapted from chad Kultgen’s first novel, and it would be interesting to see where it differs with the film. I found myself wanting it to go darker, to bring us as an audience emotionally closer to the drama but apart from rare moments, we were always kept at arms length.
Men Women and Children is on general release from Friday 5th December.