Every computer-age gadget is deployed to bad effect in Jason Reitman's satiric new movie, Men, Women, and Children, and that's the least of the targets of his scrutiny: how about sex, ambition, and most of all, power, particularly of the parental kind. Let me say, there was not one adult I could admire in this film. In that way, the movie is a fantasy of teen disaffection in perhaps the mode of J. D. Salinger. Forget social media, which as Reitman so aptly put it in the post-screening Q&A with a panel of psychologists and experts including Psychology Today editor-at-large Hara Estroff Marano, is mere "geography." As in the case of all of Reitman's movies, especially Juno, Thank You for Smoking, and Up in the Air, this movie is smart and edgy; its themes will generate much debate.
The parent I disliked most is played by Jennifer Garner, unusually brittle as an overprotective mom to Kaitlyn Dever, a young actor who was one of Variety's actors to watch program at the Hamptons International Film Festival this past weekend. (Dever plays a small but indelible role in Lynn Shelton's Laggies.) Garner's character's callous disregard of her daughter's privacy and personhood is beyond the pale, more dangerous than any bullying, stalking, or mere alienation encountered through an excessive engagement with social media. Adam Sandler, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Judy Greer's characters are guilty of some parenting booboos, but may be more sympathetic to audiences as their colossal sexual needs seem to get in the way of good sense.
Elena Kampouis was on hand with Reitman. She plays an anorexic exploring sex with an abusive football player, and was grateful for the journey she took with Reitman. He told the audience about her audition, how he had to bring her "RL" (real life) parents in to caution them about the role she would play, with texting on her iphone perhaps her only way to engage with the indifferent athlete, not to mention a stint in the hospital. As everyone -- a crowd including David Shwimmer and Victor Garber -- filed out for a drink at the Library Bar at Hudson, the crowd had better uses for their iphones, snapping two-shots with Jason Reitman.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.