Jason Reitman's last few films have taken more hits than a shite MMA fighter. After the critical and financial success of both Juno and Up in the Air (two belters), he returned with the lower-key, underrated Young Adult, and then the horribly marketed Labor Day. Reviews for this star-heavy snapshot of modern society have not been kind, but for this reviewer it worked very well. Heck, it even managed to say some things about stuff - a rarity in cinema nowadays.
Reitman certainly spreads his characters wide, but he casts memorable faces in the denser roles. Adam Sandler is a bored husband contemplating an escort service, while his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) looks for an online hookup. Elsewhere, hot young thing Ansel Elgort struggles with his parents' divorce but finds a connection with the insular Kaitlyn Dever, whose mother (Jennifer Garner) is a little obsessed with tracking her daughter's every move. Meanwhile, a girl (Elena Kampouris) suffers from an eating disorder, while another (Olivia Crocicchia) wants to become an actress and live out her mother's (Judy Greer) unfulfilled dreams.
To say that there's a lot going on would be an understatement, and the main criticism that has been aimed at Men, Women and Children is that so many threads don't work as a overall film, instead feeling more like random snapshots of these people's lives. Yet while the connections between the characters are undoubtedly flimsy at best, a interconnected plotline doesn't really seem to be the point - or Reitman's point, at least; the director seems more interested with modern society's distractions (predominately social media) and the detrimental effect those distractions have on people and their relationships.
It's not particularly profound and it doesn't really offer any answers to the questions that it poses, but it is painfully honest film and Reitman knows how to find the truth within his characters. His casting is absolutely spot on, with Sandler particularly impressive in a restrained role, and the younger actors in general show strong chops. Elgort will be huge, while Kampouris is sweetness personified.
If you recognise certain moments in Men, Women and Children, Reitman's strong tonal hand, honest characters and effortlessly suitable soundtrack may just cause it to reverberate with you.