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Thursday
Aug212014

Yes, No, Maybe So: Men, Women & Children

In the effort to get caught up on a backlog of trailers via our Yes, No, Maybe So. series, I asked the team which they'd like to do. I accidentally got two Men Women and Children completed before I had a chance to assign it as it were. So here are both Andrew and Matthew, both Maybe Sos but leaning in opposite directions to sound off on Jason Reitman’s upcoming Men, Women & Children based on the 2011 Chad Kultgen novel. It’s his immediate follow-up to last year’s Labor Day, which everyone is trying to forget about. (Successfully?) Will it return him to former critical glories. The film goes wide in the US on October 17th (facing off against Brad Pitt in Fury), shortly after its TIFF bow. Let’s make snap judgements about the trailer after the jump - Nathaniel.

Double-side breakdown after the jump

YES

ANDREW

• The cast – Sure, with the exception of Emma Thompson, who narrates the film, none of these actors are immediate ticket-sellers but it’s great to see an ensemble focused film with so many fine, undervalued actors: Rosemarie DeWitt, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, Kaitlyn Dever, Dennis Haysbert and more. 

• Jennifer Garner deserves her own bullet for two reasons. One, no film has yet to make good on the show-carrying excellence displayed in Alias but we won't give up hope and Two, Reitman did direct Garner's best big screen work in Juno. Here at The Film Experience we're fonder of Jennifer than her husband, so why shouldn't she have a career rebirth, too?

• This face Rosemarie DeWitt makes is the exact face I make every time I'm faced with some silly internet dilemma. It would be great if the film manages to be incisive about the real minutae of internet life, but....

 

MATTHEW

 • I'll admit, that trippily sedated cover of "I Feel Love" is totally captivating.

• Happy to see Jennifer Garner keep up her re-emergence after that brief, discouraging period of (only) playing Mrs. Ben Affleck during red carpet interviews, telecast speeches, and SNL monologues. I think she's oddly underemployed and annoyingly under-tested for someone with her easy, everyday likability, not to mention such moving and easily accessible onscreen emotionality. Hoping for a change of pace here, especially since her best scenes in Reitman's Juno easily rank with the finest supporting work of its year, or any other for that matter.

• Speaking of egregiously overlooked supporting performances of the 2000s, Rosemarie DeWitt deserved just as much of the praise and prizes as Anne Hathaway did for Rachel Getting Married.

• Ensemble. Having Jennifer's 13 Going on 30 rival/high-heeled viper/generally valuable team player Judy Greer, Breaking Bad's Dean Norris, Far From Heaven's Dennis Haysbert, and that trusty Reitman regular, the all-around dependable J.K. Simmons filling out the supporting front never hurt a project...

NO

• I am doubtful because, for some reason, filmmakers have a history of trouble making modern technology palatable for the screen. I don’t know what it is, but in an ineffable way it’s almost as if emailing and texting is just not cinematic. There’s no telling if the trailer’s effect is one used throughout the film but it's almost exclusively people responding to their technology which won't play to Reitman's strength. His primary skill is making actors pop when they're acting with each other.

• Am I the only one getting a slight sense of supercilousness? It's a potential issue with any film telling amessage and Kultgen's novel about technology destroying our lives is rather message heavy. This tag at the end sure is an eye roll!

Discover how little you know
About the people you know. 

• The tone of the trailer is all about telegraphing quite deliberately how IMPORTANT its themes about the internet ruining lives is… which might be exhausting at two hours.

• Between Chef's tolerable, Tweet-centric narrative and the lame reliance on social media "storytelling" in this month's Frank, I can already see myself getting sick enough of The Internet-as-Plot Device by the time Men, Women & Children rolls along, especially since it looks like it's being, uh, abundantly employed here as another belabored emblem of The Way We Live Now, that's only getting more reductive through ceaseless repetition. A lot of screens in this one.

• Ugh, that shot of Ansel Elgort walking in a different direction than the text-bubbled bodies of Everyone Else in his high school hallway. Do you get that he's "different" yet?

• Is Judy Greer's daughter auditioning for a show called "America's Next Big Celebrity"? Something like that? The name itself is pretty lazy parody, as far as that goes.

MAYBE SO

• Lost in translation? Kultgen's novel isn't what I'd call great prose but his best asset is his ability to delve into the psychological state of his characters vis a vis their dependency on the internet. Heavy message-based themes like these tend to work better in prose than in cinema.

• Jason Reitman. I’m largely apathetic to Reitman but, other than Up in the Air which I loathed, I liked his first three films to varying degrees. His straightforward directing style isn't an issue, necessarily, but the best moments of each of his films have been character-specific which makes me wary of something that needs THEMES to land. 

• Ensemble dramas. I love Traffic but my antannae are raised every time an ensemble film about a large spate of people tied together by coincidences is announced. It's too well worn a trope now. Can this one avoid the hokiness of so many similarly based ensemble dramas of this century? Time will tell.

• I've already read more than one post describing this as the "Millennial American Beauty," an iffy claim that the trailer only seems to substantiate, what with all the sexual meddling and suburban secret-spreading amongst Addled Adults and their Disgruntled Progeny. I think Beauty still dazzles as a cinematic experience, but the chauvinism, muddled messages, and plastic bag imagery have not aged well in the slightest.

• Whenever Adam Sandler "Goes Serious" (Punch-Drunk LoveFunny People), it tends to verge all too typically on the Sludgy Sad Sack side of things. His totally brief snippets in this trailer imply a person with a bit more curiosity and potential intrigue. I wouldn't say I'm exactly anticipating the performance, but… I'm, also, curiously intrigued.

• I found Ansel Elgort downright insufferable in The Fault in Our Stars, although I concede that it's a near-impossible character to get close to and that most (if not all) of the problems originate on the page. I also wasn't quite as taken with Kaitlyn Dever's breakout work in Short Term 12 as some of my fellow TFE contributors were, thinking it just a tad too full of shrill, faux-angsty teen posturing to really cohere into a believable character. That being said, they're two young actors who are clearly going to be around for a long, long time, so I might as well get to know them a little better.

• Guys. What are we going to do with Jason Reitman? For every Juno and Young Adult - the former, one of the most gentle and generous comedies of the prior decade and the latter, a hilarious, horn-spouting character study with patent limitations - there's a Labor Day or Thank You for Smoking, that only serve to make his best films look like the work of a two-trick pony. It'd be tempting to call him an "actor's director," what with the prickly, priceless chemistry in Young Adult and that entire united Juno ensemble. But even Up in the Air, one of his comparably more "solid" movies, somehow manages to feature great, so-so, and totally overstated work simultaneously. So what gives?

 

It's a draw Andrew a Maybe So leaning No and Matthew a Maybe So leaning Yes. Be the deciding voice in the comments

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Reader Comments (26)

I'm a no. It looks pretentious and annoying. The only Jason Reitman film I've actually liked was Thank You for Smoking and Juno was okay. I likewise loathed Up in the Air.

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Up in the Air and Juno are two of my favourite films ever, and I loved Thank You for Smoking and Young Adult too, but Labor Day was painful. I still can't believe that the same guy who made Juno made that. I want to say yes for old times' sake, and for Jennifer Garner/Judy Greer/Ansel Elgort (I'm a huge fan of TFIOS-the-book and he was perfect as Augustus), but Adam Sandler?!?!?! Anything featuring Adam Sandler automatically makes me hate it. I might watch it depending on the reviews, but unless they're fantastic I will not sit through anything starring Adam Sandler.

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

The idea that there's no dialogue is intriguing but.... the trailer just reminds me of Disconnect which wasn't a very good film so I don't think I'll be on board with this unless the reviews are very good.

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

I am rooting for Jennifer Garner, but the trailer didn't even make use of her. The movie seems kind of dull. Leaning towards no.

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commentertom

I'm a no. It just looks boring, obvious, tedious and like something used for filler on Lifetime. I like the actors mostly but I just can't get excited about unhappy people being unhappy in an unhappy world of their own making.

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Don't think so. I can't stand Adam Sandler, first. Second, Reitman is near insufferable when he's in his pretentious 'voice of a generation, telling it like it is" mode, which previously brought us Thank You For Smoking and Up in the Air. I much prefer him as a Diablo Cody-delivery system. I also liked the peach pie movie, because it was so gonzo ridiculous and sincere at the same time, and Brolin was really good.

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Up in the Air is one of my favourite films because I think he does the "voice of a generation" thing really effectively especially with that (controversial) ending. I was also one of the positive receivers of Labor Day because while it was melodrama (a genre I normally hate) it was really effectively done melodrama with some really proficient direction and editing at work (look at the bank scene for an example).

So I'm a definite yes on this film. I don't think we have come anywhere close to the oversaturation of tech/text-on-screen for it to annoy me yet. I also think its a remarkably effective way of demonstrating modern communication because we get to see what they are reacting to as they react to it. It allows for cleaner and more rhythmically satisfying editing which I'm always a fan of.

Other things,
The jury is still out on Ansel Elgort because as insufferable as people found him in TFIOS, his performance is exactly how that character was written. You may hate Augustus Waters but that doesn't make Elgort's performance a bad one.

I'm excited for Adam Sandler in this because I think his dramatic style should mesh well with Reitman. And obvious yes's on Jennifer Garner and Rosemarie DeWitt.

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterQueermyntcritic

Reitman is all over the place for me. Thank You For Smoking was too much in parts, but Eckhart's performance was the best of his career (should have been nominated). Then Juno, my favorite from back to front (performances, comedic timing, script, you name it), which I see referenced too often as a weak film; then Up in the Air, with that incredible turn from Farmiga and perfect zeitgeist questioning of career and purpose. He became one of my favorite directors quickly.

Next, an unpopular sentiment - Theron was great in Young Adult, but the movie left me cold. I heard a million pie jokes about Labor Day and didn't bother. This trailer looks great, but... I'm concerned Reitman will be one of those directors where their original spark, even if it was unpolished, will always make their early work my favorite. I'd love to be proven wrong though. (As I'm writing this, I'm surprised I let a single movie make me doubt him. Let's call this a Yes.)

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

This article makes me dizzy, with the left-right split and so many points in between. I'm just gonna go with Yes based on Reitman's name alone (I don't quite loathe Labor Day as much as others do, I love me some Winslet; though admittedly I also don't quite love Juno as much as others do).

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPJ

Hard no. How can something be so strident without saying a word? How can anyone make a movie about our modern relationship with technology and have it look so utterly humorless?

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave

It looks cringy. Also, stop trying to make Jennifer Garner happen.

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

I'm a no. The point it's trying to make seems so obvious and 4 years ago. I'm also not a fan of Elgort - atrocious and smug in TFIOS - nor Dever - worst thing about ST12 although it could be the terribly conceived character. And all the actors in this movie seem a bit cold and detached. Say what you want about Labor Day it had Winslet's earthiness and present carnality going for it.

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMurtada

Dave: I love that you point out the humorlessness. It's odd, the film is being billed as comedy drama (I wouldn't call the book particularly funny, though) but the trailer is very cold and detached.

It could be false advertising but what an unusual choice if the film is light. It would be great if it capture some of the random levity of internet usage, too, but the trailer doesn't suggest that.

But, of course, we'll see in October...

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

Reitman is a weird director. I loved Young Adult, hated Labor Day, didn't think much of Juno or Up in the Air. This is a great trailer, the cover of I Feel Love is fantastic. I don't know if the movie will be good but so far it looks that way.

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

The young boy is "different" for going against the crowd, the young girl is a deluded sexual victim. These tropes of teenage life are tired without the overstated and obvious commentary on internet life. How about considering that the internet gives women a chance to choose the content of their lives (and ignore for example the skeezy bastard staring at them on the subway) rather than portraying them as mindless victim-drones to "the media's" desires for them?

August 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

Doesn't look too promising at all. IF it gets great reviews (which I don't think it will based off of this), this will be a rental/VOD for me due to the cast/director (I LOVE Juno). But otherwise, not really my type of movie (or anyone's, most likely).

Note: If you are doing a post about a trailer, it is helpful to actually have the trailer within the post.

August 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Also turned off by Ansel Elgort's platypus/trying to cry face, which makes an appearance in the trailer...

August 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

It's really boring to hang out with people who are on their phones the whole time, And it's boring to watch people watch screens, and even MORE boring to watch people watch screens on a big screen. Call me old-fashioned, but probably a no, even though I really like the cast, and most of Reitman's previous work.

August 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPam

This trailer is really slapping you in the face with how Serious and Dramatic it is. I like serious drama but oy vey. Plus, no Oxford comma: FAIL.

August 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

Technology is evil! The online world is bad! What about the children?

At least Adam Sandler is consistent - he doesn't go for subtlety.

August 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Deborah Lipp: The Oxford comma is a CHOICE, not a mandate hardline RULE. But yes, it is. Now, with this? That might work. So, yeah, Maybe So.

August 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Deborah Lipp: When I said, "yes, it is" I was referring to being "serious and dramatic."

August 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Adam Sandler? Automatic NOPE.

August 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKieran

Wow, I'm really surprised by the negative reaction around here.

I agree that there are a lot of "maybe so's" in the trailer, but I liked the choice of music and how it convey the general feeling of the movie without any dialogue.

And I don't know if the message is "internet is bad and destroyed humanity", I feel it's something more like "we are kind of screwed up and the internet changed how we cope with it"...

But, yeah, Jason Reitman is a hit or miss kind of director.

August 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRemy

Note: I think I'd almost never go above or below a maybe with a trailer lacking audible dialogue. Dialogue can be a decent sized part of cinematic texture. "Bring me everyone" followed by "I'll kill them" delivered in a soft voice conveys a much different movie than that line followed by "EVERYONE!!!", after all. (It's the rough tonal difference between Leon and Blow Out, for example.)

August 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Makes me think of American Beauty. Not a good thing.

August 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrianZ

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