Social Media has come to change a lot in our society today and it’s evident right here, right now. You’re probably reading this because it popped up on Facebook, Twitter, or some other form of media. Just look around you! Everyone is glued to their phones and their in-person interactions aren’t that often. Social media can influence people in powerful ways, be they good or bad. It affects how we look at the world and I think we often underestimate how important its effects really are.
The Pale Blue Dot is what Earth is referred to in the image of Earth, as seen through the lens of the Voyager. Everything and everyone has existed lives on that Pale Blue Dot and some think that we are so insignificant in our actions and lives. Tim Mooney (Ansel Elgort) is one of those believers, as his mother has just left him and his father Kent (Dean Norris) and he finds no joy in football anymore. All he wants to do is play computer games and it doesn’t matter that he’s the star player who quit and ruined things for his team. Nothing really matters, until he meets Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever), a silent-type who seems reclusive. That reclusive nature is due to the fact that her mother, Patricia (Jennifer Garner), monitors all her social interactions and conversations.
At the same time, Don (Adam Sandler) and Helen (Rosemarie DeWitt) Truby sit at home, struggling with communication and their marriage. When an advertisement comes on discussing an affair, things start to get interesting. Their son, star quarterback Chris (Travis Tope), has developed a recent pornography addiction that’s causing him to have intimacy issues with Hannah Clint (Olivia Crocicchia), model and cheerleader. Hannah’s mother (Judy Greer) takes scandalous photos of her for some profit, all in the name of enhancing her chances of being an actress. All the while, social media influences the interactions of these people and how the live their lives.
Men, Women, & Children marks another drastic turn for director Jason Reitman, as his passion for adapting novels has led him somewhere extremely personal and touching. With stories for the young, middle-aged, and older, this film attempts to encapsulate every new social interaction in the world and how they come to affect our lives, most often uniquely. While the stories may have felt extreme at times, it doesn’t mean that what we learned wasn’t important and how they were presented almost make all of them much better than they may regularly be. If anything, Men, Women, & Children causes us to reflect on our own experiences, as well as the experiences of others when it comes to social media and what’s come from it. After viewing this film, I wiped my eyes, regathered my spirits, and engaged in a lengthy discussion about what this film has to say. I’ve not been able to get this film out of my head and I’ve found myself becoming more observant of people and how they use technology.
Jason Reitman would be the standout star of this film, as he’s really distanced himself from the satirical-humor that gained him such infamy. With Labor Day earlier this year, he took it upon himself to craft a beautiful looking film that focused on a-couple-of- relationships. With Men, Women, & Children, Reitman tackles a much tougher task in trying to capture multiple different relationships at the same time. His visuals here are striking, as he effectively replicates every form of online social interaction that people use in their daily lives. His up-close direction allows us to observe how certain things affect the characters we follow and their reactions are so telling of how things can affect us. His subject matter can be uncomfortable, but he handles it with care and how the different aged stars would handle it in real-life. Did I mention that this film looks beyond gorgeous? Reitman displays happiness, sadness, depression, indifference, and subtly in ways that seem almost too real. The visual effects are spellbinding and the opening sequence of this film is truly admirable.
In this day and age, technology has begun to consume everyone, evidenced by people glued to their phones/computers at all times of the day. Personal interactions become limited and while we become detached from the ones around us, we also become detached from life itself. These characters become disassociated with one another because their lives have been changed by what’s in front of them, which is often more convenient and safe. People discuss their feelings online and avoid confrontation, effectively ruining real social interaction. Ansel Elgort suffers from becoming an outcast, but he’s one of the few who believes in and benefits from talking in person. He and Dever’s subtle interactions may not seem like much, but my lord are they relatable. The hidden beauty in sitting down and getting to know someone and what matters to them is something that seems like a thing of the past now. This film emphasizes that very few people speak their mind and resort to biting their tongue, because it’s easier to not try than it is to fail. It’s the reason why Sandler and DeWitt’s marriage was lacking, because they were focused elsewhere.
Another key point illustrated in this film, is the fact that technology can be dangerous. When you put something online, it’s there forever and creepy/corruptive people can access it whenever. This especially worries a terrifically over-worried Garner, who’s only trying to look out for her daughter. It’s what begins to worry Greer as she reflects on her own experiences with perverts and how people may view her daughter. Technology also allows for certain videos and services to be available to anyone, which is something that’s uncomfortably true for anyone to discuss. Trope’s character is representative of the odd effects these videos can have on people and his life is changed for the worse, in a very depressing way.
For someone as young as myself, I’ve experienced much of what the teenagers in this film did. Technology was always present going through high school and I’ve seen the good and bad effects that it brings. A lot of the conversations that this film brings up for teenagers are uncomfortable and seem awful in retrospect, but they’re also representative of how an age gap has come to disassociate the young from the old in today’s culture. Most adults don’t grasp the concept of internet trolls who will say vile, horrific things about your family to get a rise out of you. They don’t understand the heightened societal standards to look/act a certain way. However, us youth can’t grasp the idea of marriage and what it’s like to love and lose that spark you once had. Our emotions are heightened and we’re incredibly vulnerable when we’re young, but that’s what we neglect to say that we have in common with adults. We may not be influenced in the same ways and our methods may differ, but society has changed, for better or for worse, and everyone feels the effects.
Men, Women, & Children brings a lot to the table and will create dozens of discussions that deal with how we interpret the effects of social media and technology. Jason Reitman does a phenomenal job of exploring these effects through his flawed, realistic characters whom you manage to relate with in one way or another. Whether you’d like to admit it or not, there’s a lot of us within these people and the fact that we’re uncomfortable with that we see means that we’re seeing/hearing a lot of truths about our society today. Not every story works as well as it could have and some of them seemed a bit extreme, but the actors each do a fine job of trying to explore their characters and make their mark on this film. I have so much I could say about this wonderfully crafted, strikingly truthful film, but I’d rather you find it for yourself and think about what you think it has to say.
Men, Women, & Children Trailer