So Jason Reitman hates the internet. Who would have guessed it, right? That is the impression we get from watching the Juno director’s latest theatrical outing, Men, Women and Children, a scathing look at the impact social media and the World Wide Web has on our lives. Based on Chad Kultgen’s book of the same name, the Adam Sandler-starring downer-fest is an exaggerated social critique which will intrigue, creep, and most definitely bum you out.
The family dynamics of a handful of middle class American families are given a cinematic examination as we witness how technology has impacted upon their lives and the way they interact with one another, resulting in always predictable, sometimes entertaining, and occasionally disturbing, results. The usual stereotypes – the horny dad (Sandler), the lonely wife (Rosemarie Dewitt as Sandler’s wife, Helen), the over-protective mother (Jennifer Garner), and the confused teenager (Ansel Elgort) – all come out to play, as we see how the parents and their teenage kids deal with their day-to-day problems in today’s interactive world through watching porn, ordering Escorts, and playing virtual reality games.
The ever-charming Emma Thompson provided narration for the film, offering a comforting, yet somewhat out of place, distraction from Reitman taking a hacksaw to the web. Garner’s Patricia Beltmeyer, with her permanent scowl and mobile phone in hand, summed up the films ridiculous sense of over-the-top paranoia with her portrayal of the control freak mum who won’t let her teenage daughter, Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever), have any sort of social life by constantly checking (and deleting) her internet and text history.
There is no denying that Reitman’s film tells us all a few home truths; the internet can be a dangerous place – in many different ways – for us all, and its influence on society has been second to none. Its depiction of the social pressures surrounding the teens in the film (Elgort, Dever, et al.) ring especially true. It goes without saying, however, that the internet can also be a power for good, despite the issues raised in the film, .
Men, Women and Children may raise some interesting social questions, but its depressing tone, not just in its portrayal of technology, but its characters and the lives they are leading, will leave you with a real sinking feeling. The moral of the story: never use the internet, again.