Men Women & Children

This film takes a look at the lives of a group of young people and their parents as they navigate through life. What makes this film different from many others is that it takes the view through the technology which we all use to go through life.

It is a very personal view as we look to life through not just the kid’s perspectives but also that of the adults. Modern technology allows us more freedom and wider communications, but do we need or want such freedoms. Directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, 2007) who seems to be fitting in to a certain groove, this is a “warts-and-all” view of life. Seeing Adam Sandler (Grown Ups, 2010) as Don Truby in the initial scenes playing the part of a bored father using his son’s computer for masturbation is a new take, in the process of doing this he sees his son’s porn collection. His son has some very specific tastes. This reflects on the old issue of a parent finding pornography under a kid’s bed, only now it is more, well…

What we have is life and technology intersecting the lives of families, from the accept it approach of the Trubys who use the malware ridden old computer of theirs to relieve their marital boredom, a use which obviously has consequences. In contrast to the Truby family is Patricia Beltmeyer (Jennifer Garner Dallas Buyers Club, 2013) who is paranoid to an extreme about her daughter’s (Kaitlyn Dever, The Spectacular Now, 2013) internet usage. So bad is the level of surveillance that not only is the child’s digital life scrutinised down to the level of program logs but the mother also intercepts texts and suchlike deleting what she feels in inappropriate for her daughter. Needless to say there are work-arounds.

Reitman may be guilty of trying to fit too much into the movie, but I think he gets away with it by rationing out the issues through each of the families. Another aspect of the life and digital age challenge comes in the form of Kent Mooney (Dean Norris, Breaking Bad, 2008) who is struggling to keep it together with his son ( Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars, 2014) since his wife divorced him (and is now getting remarried). Kent does however meet somebody who just might shake him out of his malaise, however there is an issue. Donna Clint (Judy Greer, Archer 2009) is a mum wanting the best for her daughter ,Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia, Palo Alto, 2013) the problem is the best is around acting and modelling. In the course of events Donna allows her daughter to model for a local photographer in suggestive clothing. Donna also adds to this with a website of her daughter. This all back fires when after auditioning for a talent show, she is disqualified because of the sexual nature of the website. This shocks Donna, who was so focused on her daughter’s career that she was naïve to the other aspects.

Everyone of Reitman’s characters are flawed, but with just enough flaws for us to accept them as ordinary people grappling with a situation.   A couple of interesting observations, firstly around 9/11 being a history project, with some of the kids involved not being alive when it occurred. Also the changing communication habits such as the three girls talking in the gym, while two of them are using their phones to have a private text conversation about the third girl.

The film build to a logical but not overly signposted conclusion, which is well done and closes the movie nicely. Coming away from it I got a sense that, we had it easy as kids, or at least less difficult, with none of the technology we have today. Do all the communications devices actually do anything for us?

A very entertaining and sometimes slightly shocking look at family life in the web 2.0 age. The cast is first class and if-anything largely underplay their respective characters to keep the technology in focus. A final word on Adam Sandler; I have mixed opinions on him, but what I will say is that I prefer him in straight roles such as this, rather than the usually hard-put-upon character he often plays for comedy.

8/10