Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Ansel Elgort, Katlin Dever
As Voyager travels past the edge of the solar system, the technology that launched it into space has progressed over the years. The information age has seen technology connected into every aspect of our life, particularly our social lives. Men, Women And Children looks at how this has affected a group of people in a small American town and how their lives are intermeshed, not only with each other but with the electronic media they are reliant on.
Like the wall of sound that audiences are originally assaulted with (representing a sampling of Voyager’s famous golden record), Men, Women And Children is ambitious, multi-layered, at times uncomfortable and eventually fades to white noise. It is a grab bag of issues and storylines , threaded together with an aspect of the new electronic world we are navigating. Popularity, fidelity, depression, body image, suicide, sexuality, parenthood, teen pregnancy, control, fetishism, 9/11, desires, love – all get thrown together with as diverse a cyber terrain as MMOs, facebook, tumblr, webdating, internet pornography, cyber security, YouTube, sms, sexting, and lo-jacking. The result is initially intriguing, but soon swamped by the weight of issues and the heavy handedness of the messages. With so much going on, it really becomes difficult to care about any of it and many of the character arcs seem to get short shift in this regard, leading to unsatisfactory conclusions.
All of which is a bit of a shame as there is an undeniable interest here. Jason Reitman’s initial sequences demonstrating a world awash in electronic media are exceptionally well handled, and give the audience a stunning realisation of how pervasive it is. True it is nothing we haven’t seen before, with text graphics appearing on screen, it is merely the scale of such things taken to everyone in a high school hallway or shopping mall, that is somewhat revelatory. Still, despite this and the many strong performances (such as the low key Adam Sandler, or Dean Morris’ heartbroken father) interest in the film quickly flags as it outstays its welcome. From the 15 year old boy who is only aroused by the smuttiest fetish porn imaginable, to his girlfriend who sells bikini shots on the web, it feels like a constant barrage of the worst excesses of the cyber-age all sandwiched together, till the audience is inured.
Hammering its message home in such a consistent and constant fashion this adaptation of Chad Kulten’s novel looses much of its impact. Instead it begins to feels like lurid clickbait, rather than a morality play expounding the virtues of IRL.