Men, Women & Children
Toronto International Film Festival: Jason Reitman's conservative comedy drama features a nicely understated Adam Sandler
Jason Reitman's cautionary, state-of-the-nation mosaic starts off with the promise of something Altman-esque like Nashville or Short Cuts, but winds up closer in tone to something written by Richard Curtis. Perhaps it is the fault of the extensive narration provided by Emma Thompson, reminding us that we are but a small speck in an infinite, lonely universe and should be making more emotional effort with our loved ones. It's Earth, Actually.
Working from Chad Kultgen's novel, Reitman and co-writer Erin Cressida Wilson weave together a collection of tales illustrating concerns about an America where adolescents are obsessed with porn, parents have no concept of their children's hidden lives, and everyone is beguiled by the razzle-dazzle of vacuous celebrity and dehumanised by a reliance on technology.
It is heady stuff that sweeps us into the lives of suffocatingly protective parent Patricia (Jennifer Garner), her daughter Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever) and the latter's attraction to Tim (Ansel Elgort) who no longer sees any point in playing the sports that have won him such popularity. Then there is suburban dad Don (a gently understated Adam Sandler) and his wife Helen (Rosemarie DeWitt) who are so preoccupied by their own marital woes that they fail to see the misery of their porn-addicted teenage son Chris (Travis Tope). The list goes on.
Men, Women & Children's mixture of soap opera-style melodrama and cutting comedy is never less than enjoyable but beneath the satirical swipe is quite a conservative film intent on wagging fingers and teaching lessons. Ultimately, Reitman's reach exceeds his grasp but at least this is a vast improvement on his schmaltzy romance Labor Day.
Screening as part of TIFF 2014. General release from Fri 24 Oct.