Men, Women & Children Review

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By: Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

When one looks back in a history book (or just use Google) to what life was like 100 years ago, it is night and day. The idea that there would be phones we carry in our pockets 24/7, that we have instant access to news happening 6000 miles across the world nearly the moment after it happens, or that Vampires and Werewolves would become sex symbols would sound ludicrous. But, for better or for worse, technology has changed the way we live our lives, and continues to do that at an exponential rate. The latest film by Jason Reitman, Men, Women & Children, take a look at how technology affects the relationships we have today with profound, and honest, realizations.

Don (Adam Sandler) is your average suburbanite, living an increasingly dull life in a sexless marriage with Helen (Rosemarie DeWitt). In order to relieve his tension, he turns to porn sites and escort services using his son’s computer. However, his son, Chris (Travis Tope), is the real pro with porn sites, and readily uses them regularly as an experiencing teen. But he comes to find out that the fantasies he receives with porn affect him physically when a real opportunity presents itself. At the same time, Helen is also in need of something to spice up her life, and turns to AshleyMadison.com to find a discreet lover. At the far opposite extreme is Patricia (Jennifer Garner), a fanatical mother who keeps tabs on everything technology related her daughter Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever) uses, from looking at all of her emails and texts to listening in on phone calls. But Brandy has found a love with gloomy Tim (Ansel Elgort), a former football star who now spends hours gaming online to the dismay of his father, Kent (Dean Norris). Lives intersect and technology proves to be detrimental in many lives when we begin to use that over actual, physical communication.

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There’s much to be said regarding the reality portrayed by the characters in Men, Women & Children. Over time, a relationship loses its luster, and that newlywed feeling of love and passion tends to fade away. So how does a couple work together to maintain a healthy relationship? Or is that when the infidelity truly begins? When we look at teenagers, it’s easy to see how most communication is done through text message. But what all is lost through the written word that needs to be conveyed verbally? We’re at that point in our society where we text people when we arrive at their home instead of walking up to the door and ringing the bell. Then there is the art of parenting and the different styles parents adapt to fit their needs. While some are more lax in their approach, others can be seen as “micromanagers”, inspecting every aspect of their children’s lives from reading their texts to checking every website they access. Life is full of complications and we believe technology will help make our lives better, and in some instances it does, but in others it tends to do more harm than good.

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In regards to the performances, this is a true ensemble of a film. There isn’t one “lead” actor but rather everyone is a lead in their own right, each carrying an important message and providing an example of our current social structure. Adam Sandler may have displayed his best performance to date (which isn’t saying a lot), but he really is very good in his portrayal of a middle aged father and husband who has lost the spark in his marriage. The same can be said of Rosemarie DeWitt, who is in the exact same position and uses technology to fill that void missing in her marriage. Elena Kampouris is amazing as a young high school girl who is learning about life through her friends and wanting to take that step and be seen as a “cool” kid, but the potential consequences and ignorance of that age may be too much. Plus the topics of what it means to be beautiful in today’s society are explored through Elena. Ansel Elgort also stands out for his portrayal of a high school male dealing with his own personal demons, which come to a dramatic head as the film progresses. Kaitlyn Dever is magical as a young girl trying to balance having her own autonomy while living with controlling parents, specifically that played by Jennifer Garner who is also great in her role. There are so many other wonderful performances, but, again, this is an ensemble cast to the very definition and they all carry the film towards greatness.

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If anything, Men, Women & Children should be an eye opening wake up call for humans and our reliance on technology in regards to our relationships. And while the issues the film highlights are nothing new to anyone, we tend to overlook them, as we do with many things. Men, Women & Children strikes various nerves and will resonate with people of all ages, leaving you thinking about what you saw and how it pertains to your own life hours after walking out of the theater. Some films are made purely for entertainment while others go out to try and make a change in our lives. Men, Women & Children is able to do both and should be rewarded come award season.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


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