The Dark Side of Progress

Men, Women & Children

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


           

            Disturbing and unpleasant are apt descriptives for Men, Women and Children. But should you see it anyway? That depends on your willingness to face what is happening in school cultures as the wave of electronic change devours them. Even if the technological upheaval is not as extreme as this movie suggests, it still is something the general public must recognize. And if you think this a students only culture, think again.
            Director Jason Reitman is determined to alert the public to screen addiction as it exists in grade school and high school. He tells us that within the last two years, screens have erased existing school cultures. Students, followed often by their parents, have been lured to the online world of hooking up which, he suggests, is now the primary priority from age 12 up. Yes, this movie is all about men, women, and children.
            Concentrating on three families – don’t even think of trying to sort them out – we learn that in every house everyone has the usual access to TV, a computer, and an iPad, while in every hand a cell phone controls every move of the person who holds it. As instant communication became constant, school and home have given way to intense absorption in dating, online porn and RL (as in Real Life) sex, the one always enabling the other.
            One boy who is thoroughly addicted to playing a video game online with strangers has resigned from being the accomplished football quarterback. Others have given up studying altogether. A mother sends provocative pictures of her daughter to movie agents. A boy accustomed to electronic stimulation, can’t handle a RL girl. The parents – in mid marriage boredom – try, in their on line inadequacy, to follow their kids to excitement. The mother who thinks she is monitoring her daughter’s every move, learns the hard way about internet deception.
            Emma Thompson does the voice over narrative. Kaitlyn Dever turns in an especially fine acting job along with Ansel Elgort who plays the boyfriend who has retreated into silence and solitude. Adam Sandler is a fine surprise as he captures middle-aged, mid-marriage boredom without the teenage polish to handle it well.
            Children and teenagers have left their parents far behind in the now necessary ability to navigate the prevailing culture. Baffled parents fail completely in their efforts to participate or to supervise. This movie is the dark side of an otherwise bright educational landscape.
            If this is an unpleasant look at contemporary life, think of it as the first warning flag that people who live on screens are becoming robotic as they lose human touch with people and the outdoors. Though it is more than any director can do in two hours, Jason Reitman has at least tried to draw attention to s cultural shift that has eluded most of us, largely because it has happened so suddenly. Think of it as a disturbing abstract picture of eager addiction in the age of screens.

 


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Men, Women & Children
Word count : 493
Studio : Paramount & Chocolate Milk Pictures
Running time : 1:59
Rating : R


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