I am going to start this review with simply this: I love this movie. ‘Men, Women & Children’ is 100% about loneliness and connection, exploring both themes in the online and offline realms. It is a product of what life is like right now in this moment, and although it makes this film ephemeral, it is also insanely relatable. The first half is extremely ‘online-world’ driven, and an audience member who was in my screening was annoyed when the third act didn’t quite involve so much texting. To this man I say: THAT IS THE POINT. It’s about the characters dealing with the consequences of their actions, largely taken via their online activities. You even have a moment where two characters are having an intimate connection together just sitting and say nothing. It’s really touching.
I keep reading reviews of this film and I keep thinking “Did we watch the same thing?! Seriously?” People (critics) seem to be too focused on the concept of ‘internet evils’ when ultimately this film is not about the internet being evil. In fact, Jennifer Gardner’s character is the vessel for this exact topic and her characters resolution should de-bunk that thought immediately. Critics: please stop staying the former as it is misinformed and is just giving me the believe ‘Generation X’ do not understand the movie at all by saying sentiments such as ‘SMARTPHONES ARE BAD’. If that’s all you took away from this film, maybe you really are that afraid of being detached from your phone. To get this point out of the way, I didn’t take away this sentiment at all.
This film is about being responsible online and having a balance of ‘IRL’ interaction. I love the exploration of online anonymity, and also consequences of the lack-there-of in some cases. I love how the film seems to mirror re4alistic reactions to situations that arise in life and also replicate appropriate dialogue for characters – the teens dialogue is flawless and not the product of a 30-something writers impression of teenagers. Equally, the adults/parents dialogue is written perfectly, and their reactions to certain situations that arise within the film, for me, mimic those in reality.
This movie easily follows the lives of several high-school teens, as well as their parents, and manages to cover the diverse range of topics that arise in normal life, but show how they are effected by ‘the online world’ of today. Of course the usual suspects are there: depression, cyber-bullying, internet safety, anonymity, and an interesting dialogue about teenagers skewed vision of sex due to porn. ‘Men, Women & Children’ is an unsettling, but an emotionally engaging film that, I believe, will leave you thinking. This film does not say “these are issues that are arising because of the internet” but these issue are merely more prevalent and accessible than ever before. Frankly, I find this is true: It is easier to get porn than ever, it is easier to be anonymous online than in reality, it is easy to lead a bit of a double life. It also does not state that the internet is the cause of sexuality, as I have read in several mis-informed reviews, but merely the effects upon it.
All the actors in this film were amazing. Some quick thoughts include Adam Sandler who managed to give a fantastically real performance that wasn’t over comodified, and Jennifer Gardner. I feel she had the hardest role to play as the extremist and fear mongering mother, who is militant on online safety, but manages to deliver a character that shows her manic behaviour, although from a loving place, over-steps its bounds, causing more issues than it stops. Anzel Elgot seems to come into his own as the depressed Tim who seeks companionship with break-through actress, Kaitlyn Dever, who plays Brandy. Brandy’s troubles are mostly caused by her overprotective mother and she is the only character to show her use of her online persona as a positive one – she finds her own private space on tumblr where is really feels she can just… be. Another performance I found myself enthralled by was Elena Kampouris and I look forward to seeing her in more things. Lastly, Emma Thomspon is the omnipresent narrater that acts as a quick device for us to understand the characters presented. Her voice was perfect and her dialogue was amusing. I throughly enjoyed her performance, I really feel she was perfect for the role.
I also found myself enjoying how beautiful the film and soundtrack is. The graphics used to convey “the internet” were not at all invasive, but really felt part of the film, and the music used were a perfect accompaniment to the visuals. Well done Jason Reitman and Bibio respectively, both are unique and stunning.
TL:DR; ‘Men, Women & Children’ is a well shot and beautiful film that is constantly unsettling, yet funny. It manages to make you totally emotionally invested and really care about what is happening to the characters, which is hard to do in this kind of film. You don’t walk out with a resolve neatly packaged in a bow as this film is more of an ongoing conversation and I love that. Based on reviews, largely from older audience, digital natives will identify and enjoy this film more. I am sad to say, there will be people who just won’t get it.
Honestly, I think this and Gone Girl are some of my favourite films this year, and I am happy I saw this! I could talk about this film at great length, but I will stop before I ruin it.
(images sourced by google.com)