Dear Jason Reitman…we would like the same Oscar nominated director and writer of terrific films like “Juno” and “Up in the Air” back in the game. What has happened to you?
First, your 2013 film “Labor Day” wasn’t awful, but it didn’t score any major notes. Then, in 2014 you gave audiences “Men, Women and Children,” which is your worst film to date. From the casting choices to the screenplay, this film is quite the disappointment coming from the man who made “Juno” a classic.
“Men, Women and Children” has a showy cast with Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, J.K. Simmons, Ansel Elgort and Rosemarie DeWitt. Then, top that off with a confusing and unnecessary narrative from Emma Thompson, who opens the film linking what we are about to watch to images of Voyageur spacecraft before panning into the Earth. First, we meet husband and wife, Don (Sandler) and Helen (DeWitt). They have two children and dull, sexless life. This means Don must release his tension by watching porn on his computer, which so happens to be destroyed by all the malware he has downloaded. So he uses his son’s computer for the masturbation purposes and discovers that his 15-year-old son has finally discovered the joys of masturbation and pornography from his internet search. Plus, Don and Helen eventually find hook up websites like ashleymadison.com
Then there is Donna (Greer), who is a failed actress, now single mother pimping out her beautiful daughter on a modeling website with a private inappropriate section. Donna thinks nothing of the website that is screwing up her daughter Hannah and giving her a very false and twisted look on life.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Patricia (Garner), who checks on her daughter Brady’s every move through Facebook checks, website checks, phone checks, etc. Patricia is so over-the-top paranoid about the technology, that it comes out as one of the worst written characters for this film. Reitman and co-writer Erin Cressinda Wilson (“Chloe” “Secretary”) had a point when writing the character, it just turned into a caricature.
Next we have Tim (Elgort), a gloomy teenager who quits the football team and spends his time playing videos games. This is because his mom left him and his dad Kent (Norris) for another man and moved to California. The only contact Tim has with his mom is through Facebook. Him and Brady eventually build a friendship/romance after they find that the two of them leave understood lives.
Finally, we have Allison, a teenager girl suffering from anorexia and falling in love with an older popular kid at school. She wants this guy to be her first, and when that happens, Allison learns the very hard way that the hot, popular guy is not always what it seems. The whole film is just too much, getting lost in all of these different, at times silly stories. You start to wonder if the screenplay was meant to be more of a satire, more than a realistic approach to the dangers of the internet, technology, etc. It’s a poorly written story, with uninteresting characters.
Looking at the casting choices, Jennifer Garner is waste as the overbearing, paranoid Patricia. She should have asked for a better written character before accepting this awful, over-the top character. Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt do not have a whole lot to work with except for being a sexless husband and wife who go looking elsewhere for sex. There are no deep or meaningful moments, just very uninteresting characters. Finally, Judy Greer could have been so much better, but her subplot is silly. We know that once you post provocative things out in the open that it’s there and future employers or even TV talent agencies can see it. Why it took Judy Greer’s character forever to figure that out until she received a call from a talent agency telling her that her daughter could not do a TV show because of the website makes no sense to me.
“Men, Women and Children” is a huge low for director and writer Jason Reitman. Hopefully he will come out of this hole soon and actually give us something worth a damn. Rated R.