Monday, October 13, 2014

"Men, Women and Children": Jason Reitman shows how his characters all stumble around living on the Internet

Men, Women and Children”, Jason Reitman’s latest film, tells its non-visual, indoor story (the film was made near Austin, TX) as a series of encounters between the adult and high school teen characters, all caused by their interactions in social media.  The result is a bit slow. 
Reitman encompasses the film with a rather silly meditation, as narrated by Emma Watson (who also narrates the early part of the film) of the Vogager, launched in 1977, leaving the Solar System now, leaving behind Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot”, where all human interactions, including now cyberspace, occur.
As the film opens, Don Truby (Adam Sandler) finds his own home computer unusable because of malware, and starts looking at porn on his son’s homework computer. The 15-year-old son Chris (Travis Tope) is venturesome enough, very much discovering young women in the real world.  The mother (Rosemarie DeWitt) very much watches the kids’ Internet access, using the latest monitoring tools.  Eventually she will destroy her daughter’s website, which went over the top as she tried to win an acting contest.  In another family, Tim Mooney (Ansel Elgort) quits the football team, stranding all his buddies, saying that football is meaningless.  You see, he has read Carl Sagan on line.  He wants to get good at some computer game.  His relationship with his dad (Dean Norris) has become strained ever since his mother left.   Tim gets into a fight and gets counseling.  You wish he could turn out like “Mason” in “Boyhood”.  (This film reminded me to see the PBS Frontline film "League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis", on the TV blog Oct. 14.) 
A lot of the film shows relationships building and dying in chat sessions (or with texts).  People get blocked from sending texts, and blocked from seeing others’ Facebook pages  (like  here  ).  I simply have never used social media for really “social” purposes this way (at least to date someone).  I use it mostly for publication and circulation of news.  The issue of one girl's racy website barely touches on the conflicts that can occur from web publishing.  Teenagers known to me generally don’t use social media with this sort of aggression. 

The official site is here. The film is formally distributed by Paramount.  But this first week it is showing in only one theater in DC, Landmark, which specializes in independent film.  (In the past Paramount has used its Vantage or Classics brands more often than it does now.)   The title can also be spelled “Men, Women & Children”. 

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