“It’s a horror film,” Adam Sandler joked out of Toronto about Jason Reitman’s latest film. “There was danger while we were growing up, also. I can’t believe some of the psychotic stuff that went on without the Internet. The kids I grew up with man, the stuff we’d get into. A lot of us should be dead.”
After almost universal praise and four Oscar nominations in two years (including two for Best Director and two for Best Picture), critically respected helmer Jason Reitman tasted backlash with “Labor Day,” a soapy melodrama starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. Undeterred as critics readily dismissed “Labor Day” out of Telluride, Reitman shrugged and made another film almost immediately after (though he did call his first whiff a “misguided effort”). That film? A ensemble drama called “Men, Women And Children,” about family and the distancing dangers of the Internet and social media.
How did Reitman do for an encore? For one, he put together a hell of a cast, including Emma Thompson, Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Kaitlyn Dever (“Short Term 12,”) Rosemarie DeWitt, Ansel Elgort (“The Fault In Our Stars”) Dean Norris (“Breaking Bad”), J.K. Simmons, Dennis Haysbert and Elena Kampouris (“Labor Day”).
But the film divided critics at the Toronto International Film Festival, some loving its sprawling narrative, others calling it a cornball “Crash” for the digital age. We were in the latter camp: “[The movie] tries and fails to send an overarching message about human connectivity and looking beyond your screens to the universe around you,” we wrote in our Toronto review (not as bad as some, NPR’s Linda Holmes called the movie “catastrophically misjudged” on Twitter).
Here’s the official synopsis:
MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN follows the story of a group of high school teenagers and their parents as they attempt to navigate the many ways the internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives. The film attempts to stare down social issues such as video game culture, anorexia, infidelity, fame hunting, and the proliferation of illicit material on the internet. As each character and each relationship is tested, we are shown the variety of roads people choose – some tragic, some hopeful – as it becomes clear that no one is immune to this enormous social change that has come through our phones, our tablets, and our computers.
Final verdict? We’ll all find out soon enough. A new trailer was just released, and now more than 15 new photos have been unveiled, and they give you the idea that the movie is about a bunch of very disconnected people (Sandler and DeWitt look like they have a loveless marriage, and Greer looks very estranged from her daughter played by Olivia Crocicchia).
Co-written by Reitman and Erin Cressida Wilson (“Secretary”), “Men, Women & Children” opens in limited release on October 3rd, before going wide on October 17th. Watch below.