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Film Review: Men, Women & Children (★★★)

Though a social downer, Jason Reitman’s latest offers up some interesting ideas…

menwomenchildrenEDITOR FILM REVIEW: A singularity of depressing feelings fills Jason Reitman’s latest drama Men, Women & Children and doesn’t let up in its 116 minute runtime.  There’s no way to start talking about the film without putting that out there from the jump.  I’ve never experience such a social downer probably since Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, and at that time I was a young adult who had no experience with drug addiction.  In Reitman’s adaptation of the Chad Kultgen novel of the same name, it brings to the forefront, the current social climate of our children and adults.  For some, it may feel as if you’re brow beaten into submission the entire time.  At times, that would be completely accurate however, there’s no denying that Reitman’s cinematic aesthetic has been risen to an impeccable height.  Not to mention, Men, Women & Children features one of the year’s best ensembles, all delivering noble and honest work.

Centering around our entire culture, and even the different ideals that surround our existence and universe, the film tells the story of several high school students and their parents and how sexuality frustrates them in their everyday life.

I was surprised, perhaps even shocked about how much I enjoyed the film by the end credits.  The film successfully manages to have you fixated on its story and its characters for the entire duration.  Though you are pulled through the ringer with little breaks, Reitman amazingly builds several stories, full of aggressive tension that is reminiscent of films like Paul Haggis’ Crash.  That may already keep you at an arm’s distance with that comparison but the two directors both have similar styles in bringing their points to the surface.  What does Men, Women & Children teach me?  To keep my daughter Sophia at home for as long as I can and don’t buy her a cell phone until she’s 50.  Is the film innovative or groundbreaking?  absolutely not.  In a discussion with my staff writers, we were discussing the film’s trailer after it premiered.  One of them astutely said, “this feels like one movie too early for Jason Reitman.”  I agreed at the time however, I’m of the mind that it’s about two movies too late.  If this had been released around the time of The Social Network or immediately following Reitman’s Oscar-nominated Up in the Air, I would feel as if we would be looking at our winner for Best Picture.  Unfortunately, in 2014, I feel we all know this.  We know technology is keeping us apart, we know our children are being buried under the cloud of our family’s issues whether it be sex, lies, or divorce.  It’s still a fascinating look at the interpretation.

One thing that can’t be denied is the cast is simply superb in every forms of the word.  With no real standout, there are no weak links.  I’m most fond of young Ansel Elgort, likely playing a character you may have interacted with more times than you’d like to.  Perhaps even a vivid representation of yourself at one point.  This will be a great plateau for him to leap from to show he’s not just the “YA cute boy” from The Fault in our Stars.  He’s firmly a part of the next generation of young, gifted actors.  Next in line is the multi-talented Dean Norris.  Sensitive, furious, and truly heartbreaking, Norris extends himself to a new limit we never really thought he had in him.

It’s so refreshing to see Adam Sandler doing something so stoic and reserved.  No Sandler-isms are shown, just glimpses of a man with so much more left to prove and say.  While its nowhere near his work in Punch Drunk Love, it’s something I hope that will be the beginning of a new wave of work for him.

Jennifer Garner, though very good in her limited time, as just pigeon-holed herself into a role that she’s played way too often.  It’s time to break out something new.  Judy Greer is quite staggering, involved in a character that’s richly despicable yet surprisingly sympathetic.  Same goes for the amazing Rosemarie DeWitt, who challenges herself in new realms of sex appeal and ferocity.

Kaitlyn Dever is also the next wave of sought after talent just one year after Short Term 12.  She will also likely be joined by Olivia Crocicchia and/or Elena Kampouris in that regard.

Men, Women & Children moves Jason Reitman into a new chapter for filmmaking.  One year after Labor Day crashed and burned, he’s feeling himself out and may have something huge up his sleeve in the near future.  All the crafts from music, to cinematography, and especially editing were very impressive.  I think paired with the right material, timely subject matter, and another outstanding cast, we should soon see that he will be here to stay.  The film is a somber but emotionally resonate experience.  Though there are times that it can come off a bit “try hard” such as a completely unneeded narration by Emma Thompson, the film is definitely a base hit for Reitman and the studio.  I’m in.

Men, Women & Children opens in limited release October 1 and is distributed by Paramount Pictures.



What do you think?

Film Lover

Written by Clayton Davis

Clayton Davis is the esteemed Editor and Owner of Born in Bronx, NY to a Puerto Rican mother and Black father, he’s been criticizing film and television for over a decade. Clayton is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association where he votes and attends the kick off to the awards season, the Critics Choice Awards. He also founded the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association, the first Latino-based critics’ organization in the United States. He’s also an active member of the African-American Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online, International Press Academy, Black Reel Awards, and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. Clayton has been quoted and appeared in various outlets that include The New York Times,, Variety, Deadline, Los Angeles Times, FOX 5, Bloomberg Television, AOL, Huffington Post, Bloomberg Radio, The Wrap, Slash Film, and the Hollywood Reporter.


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