Men, Women & Children

Directed By: Jason Reitman

Starring: Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, Adam Sandler, Ansel Elgort, Kaitlyn Dever, J.K. Simmons, and Emma Thompson

"Look again at that dot.  That's here.  That's home.  That's us.  On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.  The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar,' every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."
-Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

I'm not one to spend a great deal of time reflecting on our existence or what it means in the grand scheme of the universe.  However, I walked out of Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children pondering the nature of it all.  I realize that we don't matter cosmically.  A few billion of us could disappear in the blink of an eye, and the universe would keep chugging along as usual.  Mankind may not endure if this were to happen, but we're just one species on a pale blue dot in the universe.  Though we may not matter cosmically, we do matter on a human level.  We matter to the people with whom we interact, the people with whom we make memories.  We matter to our friends and loved ones.  Perhaps that's enough.  Reitman's Men, Women & Children suggests just that.

Don and Rachel Truby (Rosemarie DeWitt & Adam Sandler) were once a loving couple, but they couldn't be further apart today.  Not having had made love with one another in months, they're both looking to meet their needs by other means.  For his part, Don has turned to Internet pornography and masturbates regularly.  Rachel, on the other hand, has turned to a site called where a dreamy affair becomes a steamy reality.  Meanwhile, their teenage son Chris (Travis Tope) picks up on the distance between his parents but is too busy sending dirty texts to Hannah Clint (Olivia Crocicchia), the hottest girl in school, to say anything about it.  Little does he know that the aspiring actress and her mother Joan (Judy Greer) have already made his every impure thought about Hannah a reality on the website  He just needs a credit card.

Elsewhere in town, Brandy Beltmeyer's (Kaitlyn Dever) usage of the Internet is much more restricted thanks to her mother Patricia (Jennifer Garner).  The maternal Internet Nazi monitors every keystroke her daughter makes and every step she takes.  Still, Patricia can't stop Brandy from getting to know Tim Mooney (Ansel Engort), the star football player who's decided to quit the football team.  With his mother running off to California with some guy, Tim feels that Brandy is the only one who gets him, which doesn't say much for his father Kent (Dean Norris).  For his part, Kent is worried about his son dropping out of football and spending entirely too much time playing Guild Wars.  However, he's too busy getting to know Hannah's mom Joan to do anything about it.  As the people in this town start to make more connections in person and over the web that are important to them, these connections are an infinitesimal part of that pale blue dot in the universe.

Every now and then, I'll go to bat for a film that's generally not considered good by others.  Today, Men, Women & Children is that film.  While I think the film could pack a little more punch and crescendo a bit more as it climaxes, it's an entertaining film where there's never a dull moment.  Jason Reitman explores the side of individuals that don't come out in day-to-day life.  With dark cinematography, a mellow electronic score, and terrific narration from Emma Thompson, Reitman creates a melancholic world full of lies and deceit.  He explores that private side of everyday men and women, that side of them that wants to be desired and wants to make a connection with another in a very sexual way.  All in all, Men, Women & Children is a solid ensemble picture that doesn't lose track of what it's trying to be.

The cast of Men, Women & Children doesn't disappoint.  For her part as Rachel Truby, Rosemarie DeWitt deftly gives us this detached wife bored with her nonexistent love life.  Igniting the fire of her inner desire, DeWitt transforms into this creature of passion (with the Allstate guy Dennis Haysbert of all people).  As DeWitt's on-screen husband Don, Adam Sandler learns his way around the escort business and portrays a dirty middle age man.  It's good to see him tackling more serious fare.  As overprotective parent Patricia Beltmeyer, Jennifer Garner delivers an icy performance.  Very strict in everything that she says and does, Garner is perfectly suited for the role.  As Joan Clint, Judy Greer delivers an intriguing, yet shameful woman who's pimping out her daughter and living vicariously through her.  Finally, Dean Norris delivers a thunderous performance as this grumpy yet lonely guy.

The children are equally as enjoyable as the parents.  Fresh from Short Term 12, Kaitlyn Dever delivers a warm, touching performance as this girl electronically chained off from the world.  For his part as her friend Tim, Ansel Engort delivers a mellow performance as a fragile young man grappling with abandonment issues.  As Hannah Clint, Olivia Crocicchia delivers a knockout performance as this self-centered wannabe actress.  Crocicchia gives us a sensual teenager who certainly has a healthy libido.  As her romantic interest Chris, Travis Trope gives us a freaky teen who will get off on anything kinky he can find on the Internet but can’t seem to make any authentic human connection.  Lastly, we have Elena Kampouris as the anorexic Allison Doss.  It's engrossing to watch what makes her tick as she pursues the stereotypical beauty defined by Hollywood and the media.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Men, Women & Children.  It's not perfect, but you will never be bored or disappointed.  This dark, slightly erotic drama gets a 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.