Uninspired Technophobia

Men, Women & Children

by Hope Madden

Nobody panic. Jason Reitman has just hit a slump, that’s all. Remain calm.

Sure, the writer/director made his feature film debut with Thank You for Smoking (thank you for making that movie!), and only went upward from there (Juno, Up in the Air, and the underappreciated masterpiece Young Adult). He was bound to waffle a little. Scorsese followed Taxi Driver with New York, New York, for Lord’s sake. It happens.

I’ll admit, I was hoping he was done with this misstepping with the laborious romantic bludgeoning Labor Day, but it appears he has one more overwrought drama in him in Men, Women & Children.

This is basically the same film Henry Alex Rubin made two years ago called Disconnect, which followed teens and parents making terrible decisions and living online instead of off.

MW&C is not the exact same movie, but close enough. Reitman, with co-writer Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary), reworks Chad Kultgen’s novel about teens and parents and their collective obsession with the wired world.

In many ways, the themes plumbed here are universal to the coming of age film, only in the world inside this film, every anxiety is heightened by the disconnect between reality and our virtual worlds. What the film explores in dozens of ways is our ever-growing loss of intimacy.

It’s not an uninteresting point, just a belabored one. Some individual storylines grow so hyperbolic that even this talented cast cannot rein it in. (We are expected to believe that online porn has so warped one 15-year-old boy that he can no longer get an erection naturally. Even with a flesh and blood girl present. Monkeys immediately fly from butts.)

Judy Greer gives a characteristically unusual and nuanced performance, as do many of her cast mates. Plenty of folks will bristle at the idea of Adam Sandler in an ensemble drama, but in fact, Sandler is only worth watching in independent ensemble dramas. (Please see Punch Drunk Love. Seriously, please see it.)

Greer and Sandler are not alone. The cast – teen and adult – is quite solid, but by the second trip to the hospital I had to just give up on the film. The youngsters are either sociopathic loners or suicidal, and if their parents aren’t cartoonishly unaware, they’re tracking them like criminals or pimping their underwear-clad asses online. Can things really be this dire?

Back to business now, Jason. Come on. Something good this time.

Verdict-2-5-Stars

Weekend Countdown: Hard Labor for Labor Day

It’s Labor Day Weekend, and we’ve decided to take a mo and celebrate the hardest labor of all. The pregnant kind. Here are our five favorite pregnant lady flicks.

5. Knocked Up (2007)

The Judd Apatow brand extends to films he simply produced, so he may be getting more creative credit than he deserves, but he had back to back writing/directing/comic gems with 2005’s Forty Year Old Virgin and this Pregnant Beauty and the Beast. Better for its ensemble than its leads, the flick boasts dead-on genius work from Leslie Mann, hilarious support from Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Jay Baruchel and Kristin Wiig, and it introduced the world to the now constant comic presence of Ken Jeong. At least he kept his pants on for this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR4sXcMf_5o

4. Juno (2007)

Jason Reitman, Diablo Cody, Jason Bateman, Michael Cera and Ellen Page enraptured us all with this quick witted, brilliantly cast, endlessly quotable comedy about a pregnant teen. Reitman and Cody would pair up again with the nearly flawless Young Adult, but their first collaboration remains fresher and funnier than you think.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vwv12d85u7A

3. Waitress (2007)

Soulful and funny, gorgeously filmed and perfectly cast, Waitress is the list’s underseen joy. Pie baking phenom Kerri Russell squirrels away money so she can quit her waitressing job and leave her husband, then finds herself pregnant and attracted to her new doctor. Writer/director Adrienne Shelly’s film offers a pitch-perfect supporting cast, a cleverly crafted script, and the remarkable ability to make you want to eat pie right now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cQ0WwcKCLk

2. Inside (2007)

Holy shit. Inside is not for the squeamish. This French horror flick pits a merciless villain against an enormous expecting mother. Though the film goes wildly out of control by the third act, it is a 2/3 brilliant effort, a study in tension wherein one woman will do whatever it takes, with whatever utensils are available, to get at the baby still firmly inside another woman’s body.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOk5tiAkEdA

1. Rosemary’s Baby

If you’re going to see only one pregnant lady horror flick, make it Rosemary’s Baby. It remains a disturbing, elegant, and fascinating tale, and Mia Farrow’s embodiment of defenselessness joins forces with William Fraker’s skillful camerawork to cast a spell. Yes, that crazy pederast Roman Polanski sure can spin a yarn about violated, vulnerable females.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PewtQsgN5uo