When “Men, Women & Children” debuted at the Toronto Film Festival this month, reviews were largely negative, even livid. Critics called out Jason Reitman’s internet-era “Crash” for being alarmist, melodramatic and bizarrely misogynistic, and it looks like things aren’t getting any better for the film now that it’s coming to theaters.
While the newer reviews aren’t exclusively terrible, most have continued the criticism of the film’s view of the internet as a boogeyman rather than a tool to be used for good or for ill. The film has been compared to “Reefer Madness” on more than one occasion, but anyone hoping for an unintentional camp classic will have to do battle with the film’s self-serious tone, complete with overbearingly ironic narration from Emma Thompson. They’ll also have to sort out why most of the film’s women come off the worst, especially Jennifer Garner in a shrilly-pitched caricature of an internet phobic, whose behavior ironically most closely mirrors the film’s own sense of drama.
“Men, Women & Children” hits theaters October 3, but not VOD, because that might involve *dun dun dun* the internet!
Chris Cabin, Slant Magazine
As far as the narrative structure goes, the comparisons to Paul Haggis’s “Crash” are hard to ignore, especially as the script similarly offers only simple, unthinking answers to questions of tremendous sociological and historical complexity. Does a parent stand a chance at imparting personal values or wisdom when so much information and opinion is so readily available via Wi-Fi? Big question, to be sure, but Reitman fails to take into account any of the positive endeavors enabled by social media, which will no doubt be used to promote and market his film. Read more.
Mike D’Angelo, The A.V. Club
If someone told you about a movie that depicts the Internet with an alarmist hysteria capable of making “Reefer Madness” look levelheaded by comparison, in what year would you guess said movie was made? 1996? 2000? Would you believe it was made this year? …”Men, Women & Children” means to serve as a wake-up call concerning the ways in which modern technology is warping relationships and expectations. Instead, it plays like a tone-deaf rant from people who stumbled online for the first time last week and could not believe what they saw. Why, there’s pornography! And violent video games! Did you know there’s a whole website (is that what they’re called?) devoted to facilitating extramarital affairs? What is this world coming to? Why are you looking at your phone right now instead of listening to me? Read more.
Amy Nicholson, The Village Voice
In 2014, “Men, Women & Children” feels like a sermon. It’s obvious and mundane, “Chopsticks” pounded on the piano. And it doesn’t feel like the work of Jason Reitman, who made a sterling debut with a string of smart comedies: “Thank You for Smoking,” “Up in the Air,” “Juno,” and, best of all, “Young Adult.” Audiences didn’t connect to Young Adult because they thought it was too mean. In response, Reitman’s gone too soft. His last film, Labor Day, was a sap-headed, sepia-toned weepie. This one is colder, but it’s still so earnest that our kneejerk reaction is to recoil. Read more.
Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
Say what you will about the snappy, almost too-polished films of Jason Reitman, they’ve never struck a tone of alarmism…That can’t be claimed anymore with the arrival of the ominous and panicky “Men, Women & Children,” the first Reitman film to make the 36-year-old director seem about 400 years old. An ensemble-acted shriek on the topic of Internet and social-media overconsumption, the Texas-set drama is adapted from a worry-making novel by Chad Kultgen. It’s exactly the wrong match for Reitman and coscreenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary), whose mutual instincts for light-touch theatrics somehow amplify the material’s wailing siren of a thesis: Turn off those devices now. Read more.
A.O. Scott, The New York Times
At the film’s beginning and its end, an omniscient narrator with the sensible voice of Emma Thompson explains that the root of the problem is that we’re all human. True enough, but this conclusion undermines the film’s premise, dissolving the thematic glue that holds its stories together and emptying out the lessons it wants to teach. Veering between alarmism and cautious reassurance — between technohysteria and shrugging, nothing-new-under-the-sun resignation — “Men, Women & Children” succumbs to the confusion it tries to illuminate. Read more.
Betsy Sharkey, The Los Angeles Times
The question that keeps returning is why? Not why technology is the film’s raison d’etre. Or even why something theoretically designed to draw us closer can have such an emotionally distancing effect — an increasingly relevant topic in the age of Snapchat and Tinder. What nags is why a writer-director usually so canny in capturing cultural evolutions, so shrewd in probing the zeitgeist, so humane in his humor about mankind’s failings would turn so reactionary in taking on — or more precisely taking down — a computer-dependent society. Has the universe unfriended him, blocked his tweets, slammed his Instagram shots, toppled his Tumblr? Read more.