2014 / Director. Jason Reitman.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
As the Voyager spacecraft reaches the edge of our solar system Earth is little more than a spec of light. Our place in the Universe is reduced to an insignificant particle, which in turn makes our co-existence with each other all the more important. It's this Universal concept that wraps itself around the story presented in MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN. Emma Thompson's narration and referencing of Carl Sagan's book PALE BLUE DOT weaves its way amongst an assortment of characters, all of which navigate life amongst a new-age of technology and social networking. Director Jason Reitman may have bitten off more than he could chew with so much information and a heap of concepts all vying for the spotlight. The film is made up of an impressive ensemble including Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, JK Simmons, Rosemarie DeWitt, Judy Greer, Dean Morris and a whole lot more. Like the sort of intertwining films that Robert Altman became synonymous for MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN follows all of its characters as they endure personal struggles. The teenagers are held captive to their electronic devices while the adults struggle to comprehend the implications of the new modern teenage lifestyle. Themes of depression, anxiety, bullying, rape, suicide, adultery, materialism, fame and sexuality are all explored, however, the relatively short running time of 120 minutes doesn't allow the individual components to be fully explored and fleshed out. Just as we begin scratch beneath the surface of one character, we are then asked to scratch away at another. It is to the film's credit that I cared enough about each of them that I became frustrated that I couldn't learn more. Had Reitman been more tenacious and pushed for a 3 hour exploration then it could have been a very powerful film. It could have been his SHORT CUTS. WIth my frustrations aside, there is still a lot to love about it. All of the performances are excellent. To those people who spend their lives criticising Adam Sandler, I would suggest watching this one. He is superb and once again proves to be a formidable dramatic actor. All of the players carry their weight and deliver solid turns, however, Jennifer Garner's over protective (to the point of psychotic) mother character is pushed to limits of absurdity with her tracking and documenting her daughter's every move. I am sure there are people like her in this world but she's the one character who feels the most caricatured. There just isn't enough time to examine her psyche and rationale, which once again proves to be the film's downfall.... time. Perhaps less characters could have saved it. Or maybe it could have done without all of the Carl Sagan Universe reference, which ate up a good 5-10 minutes of screentime. It is clearly an imperfect film and one that is begging for an extended cut. I loved that Reitman was trying to do and as a father of two teenagers it scared the shit out of me. These new social issues need to be explored a lot more in cinema and full kudos to Reitman for addressing them at all.