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Movie Review: “Men, Women and Children”

The Jason Reitman-directed social commentary on technology tries to make a bigger statement than it’s capable of.

Movie Review: “Men, Women and Children”
Left to right: Ansel Elgort plays Tim Mooney and Kaitlyn Dever plays Brandy Beltmeyer in MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN, from Paramount Pictures and Chocolate Milk Pictures. PBD-04584

The movie “Men, Women and Children,” which is based on the book by Chad Kultgen, attempts to take a deep look into our ever-growing technological world. Unfortunately, co-writer and director Jason Reitman (“Young Adult”) ultimately fails to do so. For the amount of star power and talent on display, this movie still falls victim to the typical archetypes of a typical high school drama.

The movie explores familial, social and romantic relationships and how they are affected by social media, the internet and cell phones. Hannah Clint (Olivia Crocicchia, “Palo Alto”) wants to be a movie star, and with the support of her mother Donna (Judy Greer, “Arrested Development”) she sells photos of herself scantily clad to anonymous buyers on the Internet.

Another character, Allison Doss (Elena Kampouris, “Labor Day”) becomes anorexic after the star football player calls her fat. Don and Helen Truby (Adam Sandler, “Grown Ups” and Rosemarie Dewitt, “Rachel Getting Married”, respectively), parents of high school students, both have affairs with people they meet online. A mother, Patricia Beltmeyer (Jennifer Garner, “Juno”), monitors her daughter Brandy’s (Kaitlyn Dever, “J. Edgar”) every move on the Internet. A six-degrees-of-separation atmosphere develops among these characters.

The problem arises when each character faces a challenge in his or her life. Tim Mooney’s (Ansel Elgort, “The Fault in Our Stars) mother leaves for California and communicates solely over Facebook. Patricia keeps deleting her daughter’s texts before she can even read them. Allison deals with a miscarriage.

But none of the issues are resolved. Little things happen, but nothing is talked about in a way in which the audience can really see what is going through the character’s mind. Reitman barely scratches the surface of what could be an in-depth look at our changing social world. He certainly has actors that could handle the challenge, but the audience is left to assume that things have changed for the better through small looks and small actions.

There’s plenty of build up to some sort of climax that never happens. Instead, the film just ends. The audience is left waiting for another scene, or at least see them come together in the way that the plot had set up to happen.The audience could have guessed that all this would happen and more just from reading a synopsis. Reitman had the chance to really grapple with the questions that are brought about with technology and social media. The plot is so cliche that it could have been written by an angsty teenager in a creative writing class.

The concept of the film could have been a successful critique of how social media and the internet are affecting our everyday relationships. The seedlings of what could have worked were certainly there, but it just was not executed properly. The characters had the possibility to be interesting, wholesome characters. Instead, the character and plot development only scratched the surface.

Nothing about the film seemed completely original, even the technology theme. The talent in this film just made it easier for the audience to sit through two hours of bad storytelling.

“Men, Women and Children” opens in theaters nationwide on Oct. 17.

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