Men, Women & Children (2014) - Rotten Tomatoes

Men, Women & Children (2014)

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AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: Men, Women & Children is timely, but director Jason Reitman's overbearing approach to its themes blunts the movie's impact.

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Movie Info

MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN follows the story of a group of high school teenagers and their parents as they attempt to navigate the many ways the internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives. The film attempts to stare down social issues such as video game culture, anorexia, infidelity, fame hunting, and the proliferation of illicit material on the internet. As each character and each relationship is tested, we are shown the variety of roads people choose - some tragic, some hopeful - as it becomes clear that no one is immune to this enormous social change that has come through our phones, our tablets, and our computers. (C) Paramount

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Cast

Kaitlyn Dever
as Brandy Beltmeyer
Rosemarie DeWitt
as Helen Truby
Ansel Elgort
as Tim Mooney
Jennifer Garner
as Patricia Beltmeyer
Judy Greer
as Donna Clint
Dean Norris
as Kent Mooney
Adam Sandler
as Don Truby
William Peltz
as Brandon Lender
Timothée Chalamet
as Danny Vance
Olivia Crocicchia
as Hannah Clint
Katherine C. Hughes
as Brooke Benton
Elena Kampouris
as Allison Doss
Emma Thompson
as Narrator
Travis Tope
as Chris Truby
David Denman
as Jim Vance
Dennis Haysbert
as Secretluvur
J.K. Simmons
as Allison's Dad
Colby Arps
as Tanner
Shane Lynch
as Angelique
Jason Douglas
as Ray Beltmeyer
Caleb King
as Rory Pearson
Tina Parker
as Allison's Mom
David Jahn
as Principal
Helen Estabrook
as Wendy Gruding
Kelly O'Malley
as School Announcer
Jeff Witzke
as Bartender
Cody Boling
as Teacher
Tori Black
as Herself
Luci Christian
as Local Casting Rep
Jaren Lewison
as Jake Truby
Christina Burdette
as Hannah's Friend
Craig Nigh
as Anonymous Lover
Karen Smith
as Administrator
Candace Lantz
as Lydia Mooney
Jon Michael Davis
as Greg Cherry
John Michael Davis
as Greg Cherry
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Critic Reviews for Men, Women & Children

All Critics (131) | Top Critics (35)

As the narratives build toward their predictable conclusions, "Men, Women & Children" seems wholly unaware that these various evils existed long before Facebook and Instagram.

October 17, 2014 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
Newsday
Top Critic

"Men, Women & Children" is crowded with characters and subplots, a few of which resonate - but more often, an individual's story seems lost in the cyberflurry.

October 16, 2014 | Rating: 2/4
Seattle Times
Top Critic

It's like a collection of shared and traded Instagram posts. Revealing the telling moments of individual lives in snapshots leaves an itch to dig deeper.

October 16, 2014 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

In trying to be a big, important movie, "Men, Women & Children" is about none of the above.

October 16, 2014 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

Men, Women & Children attempts to achieve the tone of Reitman's early films, pirouetting between behavioral levity and dark melodrama, yet it often falls flat.

October 16, 2014 | Full Review…
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

The problem with Men, Women & Children - and it's a big one - is that the movie isn't telling us anything we don't already know.

October 16, 2014 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
Miami Herald
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Men, Women & Children

½

Reitman seems to have many ideas but can't find a central point for them, and so he shoots in every direction with this loose, superficial drama that falls flat with a silly, artificial execution and frustratingly hollow questions about technology, internet, solitude, lack of dialogue, etc.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

½

Jason Reitman was a director on the hottest of hot streaks with Hollywood. His first three films (Thank You for Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air) were hits but also an ushering of a new creative voice that felt mature, engaging, and immediate. His 2011 film Young Adult was divisive but I loved its nihilistic narcissism and satire. It looked like this guy couldn't miss. Then in the span of less than a year, Reitman released Labor Day and Men, Women, and Children, two surprisingly misguided movies. Men, Women, and Children aims to be a Crash-style mosaic of modern-life in the digital age, but what it really feels like is a twenty-first century Reefer Madness. The movie feels like it was made in the 1990s, like it should be a companion piece to the equally over-the-top and alarmist Sandra Bullock thriller, The Net. The movie's thesis statement amounts to "the Internet is dangerous," but this is a statement that everyone already acknowledges. The ensuing evidence from Reitman is so scattershot, so melodramatic, and so cliché-ridden, that it feels like an inauthentic lecture that is already past its effectiveness. Firstly, did you know there is porn on the Internet? I hope you weren't standing up when I dropped that bombshell. The film posits that because pornography is widely available with a few keystrokes, it has desensitized (primarily) male sexuality. It presents a slippery slop scenario, where the user more or less forms an addiction to online porn and has to keep going to more extreme places to chase that new high. This leads to their inability to accept their imaginations for pleasure or actual flesh-and-blood females. It's not like Men, Women, and Children is a case study, but this feels like the same alarmist rhetoric that's been hashed since the 1970s. The characters are allowed to have their lives ruined by their pornography addictions, but the storytelling feels particularly disingenuous when it's squared with the film's heavy-handed message. That core message is about the inability to communicate with the people around us thanks to modern technology meant to connect us 24/7 (oh, the unexplored irony). The message of the movie isn't anything new or profound but it's cranked up to such a comically over-the-top measure. I have no doubt the filmmakers were well-intentioned but their heavy-handed and tin-earned approach is a wild miscalculation that makes the film, and its dire message, more unintentionally funny than meditative. It also hurts the film's overall thesis/message when there are so many characters and storylines vying for attention. Reitman attempts to cover just about every aspect of Internet ills as if there is a mental checklist. We've got the porn addiction (check), there's also a faltering marriage where both parties seek out online affairs (check), an fixation with online role-playing games (check), exploitation of teenagers for personal gain (check), stilted communication via social media (check), harmful communities encouraging body shaming (check), cyber bullying (check), and let's just throw in genera malaise (check). The plot is stretched too thin by the multitude of storylines, many of which fail to be interesting or find some shred of truth. There are two mother characters in this film that simply do not exist in real-life, at least the "regular" social milieu the film wants to portray. Jennifer Garner's character is so obsessed with her daughter's online life that she literally goes through every text, every tweet, every online post, and is also secretly recording her keystrokes. This militantly paranoid mother is such a broad and farcical caricature of parental concern. At the other end of the spectrum, is Judy Greer's mother, a failed actress trying to vicariously live through her teenage daughter. She's photographing her daughter in provocative poses and outfits with the intent to jumpstart a modeling career, but it sure comes across like jailbait child pornography. There's little chance a character could be this naïve and self-deluded to justify running a pervy website to market her underage daughter. Both of these characters are so removed from relatability that they become the two opposite poles of the film's cautionary message. I think Reitman was looking for something along the lines of American Beauty, a cutting and engaging suburban satire, but that movie had a group of characters that were fleshed out and given careful attention. The characters in Men, Women, and Children rarely break away from their one-sentence summations. That may be the biggest disappointment. Reitman has been exceptionally skilled at developing characters. However, the people that populate the world of Men, Women, and Children are really just slaves to the film's message, plot points that rarely break away from their overtaxed duties. The teenager characters come across as the better half, especially a budding relationship between the ex-football star (Ansel Elgort, Fault in Our Stars) and Garner's daughter (Kaitlyn Dever, Short Term 12). While their story is still underdeveloped, the actors work toward something that approximates reality, which is sorely missing throughout the movie. Sure, Dever gets to say clunky lines like, "I have a secret Tumblr account. It's the only place where I can be who I am," but at least this storyline goes beyond the obvious. The anorexic teen storyline has a lot of potential, even if she follows the same steps as every disappointing and disillusioning deflowering tale since Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Even the cheating spouses storyline goes slack, taking on the malaise of Adam Sandler's character. The greater irony is that both parties use the same online service, Ashley Madison, to cheat on one another, though only Sandler pays for the service. I'll give you one sense to how poorly developed these characters are. Sandler and Rosemarie Dewitt play Words with Friends in bed. She plays "gaze" (insight: she's feeling undesired), and he responds with the word "sag" (insight: he's feeling a downturn in passion). To make matters worse, the entire film is taken to new pretentious levels of ludicrousness thanks to the entirely superfluous narration of Emma Thompson. She's a disembodied god commenting on the foibles of these lowly mortals stumbling around, and the narration constantly cuts back and forth to the Voyager satellite and its trek through the outer reaches of our solar system. Huh? Is any of this necessary to tell this story? It creates a larger context that the movie just cannot rise to the occasion. Thompson's narration provides a further sense of sledgehammer irony, with Thompson's detached narration giving added weight to describing pornographic titles. The movie keeps going back to this floating metaphor as if it means something significant, rather than just feeling like another element that doesn't belong muddying the narrative and its impact. The biggest positive the film has going for it is the acting by the deep ensemble. Nobody gives a bad performance, though Sandler does come across a bit sleepy. The problem for the actors is that a good half of the movie is watching people read or text. Reitman at least gooses up his visuals by superimposing Facebook screens and online texts, but the fact remains that we're watching people type or scroll through the Internet. It's not quite cinematic and feels better suited for a written medium (the film is based on a book by Chad Kultgen). You haven't lived until you watch actors texting for two hours. At this point in his career, I'm getting worried about the direction Reitman is headed. He started off with four very different but excellent movies, two in collaboration with Diablo Cody. Each was elevated by its careful concentration on character and by its darkly comic worldviews. With Labor Day, Reitman took a sharp left turn into a Douglas Sirk-styled domestic melodrama. It was misguided and corny and could be written off as a momentary misstep. Now with Men, Women, and Children, Reitman has delivered two miscalculated and soapy melodramas that lack any of the acuity and creative voice of his earlier films. Men, Women, and Children especially feels like an alarmist and heavy-handed message about the evils of technology and how its warping modern communication; if the film was better written, had fewer characters, had more relatable characters, ditched the pretentious narration, and focused its scattershot message into something more nuanced or definable, then there might be something of merit here. It's not that the commentary is entirely devoid of merit, but Reitman's overblown approach does him no service. Men, Women, and Children plays out like a hysterical and outdated warning that is too feeble to be effective and too thin to be entertaining. Nate's Grade: C

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

½

In "Men, Women & Children," Brandy(Kaitlyn Dever), Hannah(Olivia Crocicchia) and Allison(Elena Kampouris) are cheerleaders at a high school in Texas. That is about all they have in common, though. Hannah's mother(Judy Greer) takes suggestive photos of her for a website. Allison is busy not eating much of anything. Brandy's mother(Jennifer Garner) is busy keeping an eye on her daughter to make sure she does none of that by monitoring everything she does off and on line. Luckily, she does not know that Brandy meets Tim(Ansel Elgort) who gave up football for video games at the mall. With his latest film "Men, Women & Children," Jason Reitman does a mostly admirable job of keeping multiple related storylines going at once. This is in the service of showing how improved technology has not improved out lives, more specifically as it relates to communication, even as communities rise on the internet. As a result, parents in the film start living through their children vicariously. And then there is Tim who you could say is wasting his life, or point out in that in a few decades he will remember what he had for breakfast and not walk with a limp. The solution to all of this as the movie points out in its rather unique way is to find some perspective which it does in spades. At the same time, "Men, Women & Children" simply has no idea about pornography.(In my day, we only had the Sears catalog and liked it!) That's not to mention the movie being a little uneven, at least until one point where instead of going over the cliff in totally cringe inducing fashion, it takes a gentle step back with the help of some brilliant casting, deciding then and there to like these flawed characters. Just as much, Adam Sandler of all people nails the sweetest moment in the movie. Who knew?

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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