Film Review: Men, Women & Children
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★★☆☆☆ How we communicate is starting to fascinate people again. Instead of just looking at people talking, our art is starting to interrogate the way we talk. Jason Reitman’s uneven and awkward comedy drama (that description is loose and I will return to it later) aims to put social media under the microscope. To do this, it has a sprawling cast of characters. It’s like Magnolia with iPhones, but with more laughs, or The Hours with tumblr with no Philip Glass. Reitman’s films have more often than not tried to be quirky and serious, funny and sad, light and slightly-dark-ish. Up in the Air is the picture that gets this spot on, although Juno and Young Adult are by no means failures. All three of those films have a winning sensibility and both a dramatic and comedic intelligence that drive the viewer through their occasionally awkward plots. Men, Women & Children, however, is a difficult one. It can’t decide if it wants to be a comedy about middle-aged men watching porn, a serious comment on our lack of person-to-person communication, a film about marriage breakdown, panic in suburbia and eating disorders, a visual essay on the sexualisation of childhood or a star-crossed-lovers romance. It tries to do all of these and ends up wandering into an oblivion of its own making. It only feels like yesterday Jason Reitman’s drama Labor Day hit cinemas (it was released nine months ago and was a bit of a box office failure). It was a sumptuous, superbly acted drama with both menace and warmth. It premiered at the London Film Festival with Oscar buzz for its two leads, Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. But audiences didn’t take to it, the buzz led to nothing and it made barely any money. It was also painfully mis-sold as a Nicholas Sparks-esque honey-flavoured romance. However, the levels of deception going on with Paramount’s marketing of Men, Women & Children, however, beats the Labor Day incident hands-down. At first there was the trailer that went for a post-Fincher, cool, Social-Networky vibe with rumbling electronic music and a touch of menace. It went around the cast, which includes Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Kaitlyn Dever, Roseamrie DeWitt, Dean Norris, Judy Greer, Ansel Elgort, Olivia Crocicchia and others. It was fairly accurate, though played down the comedy side of the film.
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