Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Offline: ‘Men, Women & Children’ in the internet age

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | October 30th, 2014

Trading the comic complications and satirical stingers of “Thank You for Smoking” and “Juno” for the more nakedly manipulative white whine and/or bathos of “Up in the Air,” “Young Adult,” and the critically ravaged “Labor Day,” filmmaker Jason Reitman adds another entry to his list of underwhelming missteps. The director’s sixth feature, “Men, Women & Children,” is based on the novel by Chad Kultgen, and aspires to examine the dark side of our fascination with smart phones and social networks. Good films about connectivity and disconnectedness are possible, but “Men, Women & Children” can only dream of being in the same class as “Me and You and Everyone We Know.”

Juggling a sprawling ensemble that includes a group of parents played by Adam Sandler, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, and Dean Norris, Reitman devotes equal time to the lives of teenagers including Ansel Elgort, Kaitlyn Dever, Olivia Crocicchia, Travis Tope, and Elena Kampouris. These men, women, and children, slaves to a culture determined by the façade of identity construction and the relentless demands of online profile management, appear to fulfill the prophecy of diminishing face-to-face human contact. Reitman never misses an opportunity to remind us of their pain.

The extent to which the movie manages to accurately capture some, if any, of the rapidly changing uses of the Internet is debatable, and the most tech-savvy viewers will snort derisively at a few of the more outmoded references. “Men, Women & Children” continues the visually intriguing evolution of the onscreen display of electronically mediated content like text messages, and Tony Zhou’s “A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film” is a highly recommended primer for viewers either before or after they screen “Men, Women & Children.” Zhou’s short video effectively explores in five minutes several of the things Reitman struggles to do in just under two hours.

Zhou argues three key ideas regarding the dramatic increase of onscreen textual integration: it is more economical than the old manner of using close-up insert shots of phone screens, it is “artistically efficient” (in that “shot/reverse shot is slow”), and it “allows us to combine action and reaction in the same frame” via an uninterrupted view of an actor’s performance. Zhou praises “Sherlock” as the definitive exemplar of the technique’s “elegant design,” identifying several specific ways in which the BBC series has elevated the game: elimination of the display bubble containing the text, unified typeface and color – which further involves the audience by requiring the viewer to infer who is sending the message, and graphics that are (mostly) untethered to character or device. “Men, Women & Children” does not adhere to these practices.

In Reitman’s movie, the messages are indicative of a dispiriting isolationism that leads to a checklist of ills including adultery, eating disorders, bullying, sexual exploitation, fame worship, and misguided parental overprotectiveness. In case we miss the point(s), the plummy tones of Emma Thompson’s disembodied narration – accompanied by images of the Voyager space probe and Carl Sagan’s reflections on the “Pale Blue Dot” photograph – portentously interrupt the action in an effort to introduce philosophical gravitas. Thompson’s voice, deliberately or not, also recalls her similar role in “Stranger Than Fiction,” a far more thought-provoking examination of the existential crisis and moral values in the digital age.  

Recently in:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Savanna’s Act passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate on Friday and will move to the U.S. House of Representatives.The bill, S. 1942, is named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band…

Culture

Drink n’ Destroy

by Logan Macrae

Pixeled is every 1980’s nerd’s wet dream. This is the kind of place that you sat in your parent’s basement and dreamt about. Contemplating what college might look like, and through your braced teeth, you took a wheezy breath,…

Saturday, December 15th, 3-6pmJunkyard Brewing Company, 1416 1st Ave N, MoorheadCome bare the elements with us for a good cause. Bring your spare winter gear to be donated to Churches United for the Homeless. Coats, gloves, boots,…

by Josh Boscheejoshua.boschee@yahoo.comphoto courtesy of Mitch MarrEight words that perfectly describe the beautiful spirit of Kim Winnegge."I have given my whole life to words."Those of us who knew her remember these words as a…

Gadfly

Affluenza

by Ed Raymond

What happens if conspicuous consumption becomes global?The latest National Geographic has an editorial “The Global Peril of Inequality” by UCLA Professor Jared Diamond which the entire world should read. The author of many…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

by Ben Myhrebenmyhre35@gmail.comUs North Dakotans love our Knoephla soup. I am no exception. I have fond childhood memories of sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen making this dumpling soup. From then until today, my taste buds go…

Music

Snow and Flurry

by HPR Contributor

by Jacques Harvieux jacquesthejock@gmail.comMosh pit etiquette 101: The mosh pit is located front and center of the stage.Create a sizeable ring.When the music starts unleash mayhem. If you fall - get up immediately.If somebody…

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” director Marielle Heller beautifully translates another personal autobiography to excellent results. “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” is based on the confessional 2008 memoir of literary forger Lee…

SEBEKA, Minnesota – Nearly a century ago the nation was racked by inclement weather, soaring unemployment, and despair following World War I and the lucrative Roaring 20s. The 1930s were an era of dust storms and lunch lines,…

by Ryan Jankeryan.janke78@gmail.comFargo-Moorhead Community Theatre presents “A Christmas Story: The Musical” which is underway at the Stage at Island Park and will run through December 22. It has been promoted as a show both…

Those who have been reading my articles for a while may remember when I interviewed Zachary Tooker about the Level Two Comedy Club at the Radisson in Fargo. While the club may have unfortunately closed, Tooker has not ceased…

by Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.comphotography by Logan MacraeEver wish you could go to your favorite brewery without leaving your house? Finally, you can (sort of). Kilstone Brewing is now doing limited can releases of some…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

“(Søren) Kierkegaard…has opened our eyes to the shallowness of much of our pseudo-Christian life, and to the outright deception in politics which Christianity has been made to serve.” - William Hubben“The people starve…