Thursday, October 16, 2014

Men, Women & Children: Movie Review


A drama about the dangers of modern life failed to create engaging characters.
Men, Women & Children is Jason Reitman’s newest film and yet he has descended even further from the heights of Thank You for Smoking, Juno and Up in the Air. In this drama, he explores the effects the online world has on human relationships and sex in modern times. It’s a concept that has been covered and will be covered countless more times. But it’s a lackluster affair despite the star-studded cast because the characters are all so unappealing. 2014

Directed by: Jason Reitman

Screenplay by: Jason Reitman, Erin Cressida Wilson; Based on the novel by Chad Kultgen

Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer and Ansel Elgort

Photo credit: Dale Robinette. Left to right: Rosemarie DeWitt plays
Helen Truby and Adam Sandler plays Don Truby in MEN, WOMEN
& CHILDREN, from Paramount Pictures and Chocolate Milk Pictures.
There are a lot of characters. The film follows a handful of mostly unconnected high school students and their parents and when all is said and done, there are a dozen main characters. It’s a film that’s encumbered by too many characters and too much narration.

The narration is amateur hour where the narrator announces what the character is thinking and doing and then the actor has to try and pick the right facial expression and action for what the audience already knows is happening. It suggests the director doesn’t trust his actors, but that shouldn’t be the case with Reitman and this cast. It ends up coming across as unsophisticated and gratuitous.

Emma Thompson serves as the narrator and she unfortunately does it in the identical manner as she did Stranger than Fiction, which is an entirely different film and one that the style of narration fits. This film is not supposed to be surreal or a type of magical realism, but an actual, realistic representation of our own hard, cold reality. The narration added in an element of humour that didn’t fit a film that was taking itself so seriously.

Photo credit: Dale Robinette. Left to right: Olivia Crocicchia plays
Hannah Clint and Judy Greer plays Donna Clint in MEN, WOMEN
& CHILDREN, from Paramount Pictures and Chocolate Milk Pictures.
© 2014 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Flitting from character to character without really giving any of them an engaging story, there is very little structure to be found. Interest in each of them is based solely on their one main characteristic. Patricia (Jennifer Garner) is Brandy’s over-protective mother; Donna (Judy Greer) is Hannah’s under-protective mother; Kent (Dean Norris) is lonely, and everybody else (and I do mean everybody else) is feeling like they’re under-sexed.

While it is very sexually explicit, it’s done in a fairly realistic manner. The adult characters are struggling to re-establish their sexuality in middle-age and the teenagers are exploring their sexuality for the first time. The most entertaining part would be the other audience members’ reactions to the various online sexcapades the characters would get themselves into. Particularly, Don Truby (Adam Sandler) using a website that allows him to select an escort based on every specific body identification that the other brain could possibly desire.

Photo credit: Dale Robinette. Left to right: Kaitlyn Dever plays
Brandy Beltmeyer and Ansel Elgort plays Tim Mooney in MEN, WOMEN
& CHILDREN, from Paramount Pictures and Chocolate Milk Pictures.
© 2014 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
The teenage characters and actors probably deserve the most credit including Kaitlyn Dever as Brandy, Olivia Crocicchia as Hannah, Ansel Elgort as Tim and Elena Kampouris as Allison. As teenagers they all possessed a level of innocence which made their harmful choices just seem an unfortunate consequence of youthful curiosity. Their parents’ behaviour was much more damaging. When the characters face real consequences to their actions, it becomes a much more touching and meaningful experience. The unfortunately large number of characters and lack of structure leading up to it greatly hamper the impact and especially any enjoyment of Men, Women & Children.

Similar Titles:

Young Adult (2011) - An almost brilliant look at the world of a darkly troubled young adult.

Conception (2011) - Lacking in originality and meaning; swarming with characters.