Saturday, October 25, 2014

Men, Women, and Children - Movie Review

Men, Women, and Children is a movie directed by Jason Reitman and is based on a novel written by Chad Kultgen. This dramatic journey through social media and its effects on how we live or lives features the acting talents of Jennifer Garner, Adam Sandler, Rosemarie DeWitt, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, Emma Thompson, Kaitlyn Dever, Ansel Elgort, Olivia Crocicchia, Elena Kampouris, Dennis Haysbert, and J.K. Simmons.

To some, the internet is an escape from reality and, to others, it actually is their reality. People have come to depend on connected devices more and more over the last decade and there are many varying viewpoints as to how this technology should be used and/or controlled. Patricia Beltmeyer (Garner) believes the internet is a danger to her daughter Brandy (Dever) and does everything she can to control and manage the content she has access to. After years of marital uncertainty, Don and Helen Truby (Sandler and DeWitt) each turn to the internet as an escape although their experiences become a little more real than they originally anticipated.

The above two scenarios are just a couple examples of the interweaving story lines that all revolve around a group of high school students that show what life is like being permanently "plugged in". Jason Reitman does a fantastic job of adapting a very complex novel and easily finds a way to balance out all the different characters that we see over the course of the story. For me, the most interesting thing this movie is able to show is how teenagers, who have grown up always knowing a life connected to the internet, treat the online experience as such a natural extension of what they do each and every minute they have available. The adults in the film are not anywhere near as fluent in the nuances of this ever evolving technology as their children are, and this leads to a major divide between the two generations.

The other thing that caught my attention is how the movie takes topics that have long been hot button issues like infidelity, insecurity, and peer pressure and shows how they have evolved within the connected world we now live in. Reitman has a great sense of how to use his cast to convey these topics while drawing out very natural performances. There isn't any sort of stylized hyper reality going on here, this is a story that could be, and most likely is, playing out in every city and town across the country in some way. Even when it feels like a character is acting a little too crazy, you're still like...yeah, I can see that. Reitman actually shows you how they got there and why they're making those decisions.

As far as the cast, I would have to say that every single person in the movie turns in a very good to excellent performance. There are so many new faces primarily filling the parts of the high school students and I'm sure at least a couple of them will eventually rise to stardom much like how Anna Kendrick did after starring alongside George Clooney and Vera Farmiga in Reitman's brilliant Up in the Air. On the other end of the spectrum, I would have to say that both Adam Sandler and Jennifer Garner may have turned in the best performances of their careers. They are both very believable, even when their characters are doing some unbelievable things, and you can really see how Reitman was able to raise them up to a level that I know I have never seen before. Other notable performances belong to Judy Greer and Dean Norris whose characters are on very similar paths as parents but in completely different ways.

Men, Women, and Children may not leave you feeling all rainbows and butterflies when you walk out of the theater although it will make you stop and think about how we use technology in our lives and the affects it has on who we are. You may even be a little apprehensive when it's time to turn your phone back on as you are walking out of the theater although I suppose, if that's the case, then the movie has done it's job. Aside from the serious and worthwhile message, this is also a very entertaining movie filled with some very good performances and is a movie I would definitely recommend. Parents, this movie is rated R although I would say it is a movie you can and should see with your teenage kids.


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