Men, Women & Children, film review: This cautionary tale takes itself very seriously

(15) Jason Reitman, 120 mins Starring: Rosemarie DeWitt, Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Kaitlyn Dever
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The Independent Culture

Jason Reitman's cautionary tale about social interaction in the digital age plays in its lesser moments like a public-information film. The characters here are so busy looking at smartphones and computers that they don't communicate properly with one another.

There is the mum (Jennifer Garner) who polices her daughter's online activities in absurdly zealous fashion. There is the adolescent girl who dreams of celebrity and, with her mother's encouragement, posts provocative pictures of herself on a website.

There's the middle-aged man (Adam Sandler) whose marriage has gone stale and who looks at escort services on porn sites, little suspecting that his equally unfulfilled wife is making her own plans online. Ansel Elgort from Unhook the Stars plays a high-school football hero-turned-obsessive gamer.

Parts of Men, Women & Children are very acutely observed and have real poignance. The problem is the Short Cuts-style structure, with its multiple characters and overlapping storylines. Reitman has to jump around so much that he can't develop his ideas in much depth.

The narration (read by Emma Thompson) and the references to the cosmologist Carl Sagan have a strangely distancing effect. A film that takes itself very seriously, it could surely have benefitted from some of the ironic humour found in earlier Reitman movies such as Juno and Up in the Air.