In an age where everything and everyone is just a text, tweet, or Tinder swipe away, technology permeates everyday routines in a way that didn’t ten years ago. Jason Reitman’s (“Juno”) “Men, Women & Children” explores that effect with little success.

Men, Women & Children

State Theater
Paramount Pictures

The film follows a wide cast of teenagers and their parents, each of whose life choices and pathways are directly affected by technology. The scope is diverse and tackles many facets, positive and negative, of these interactions. Tim (Ansel Elgort, “The Fault in Our Stars”) is a former football star who turned to playing online RPGs after his mother left his dad. His love interest, Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever, “Bad Teacher”) seeks privacy from her strict mother (Jennifer Garner, “Dallas Buyers Club”), who obsessively reads through all of Brandy’s online profiles. Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia, “Palo Alto”) posts provocative photos of herself online in hopes of jumpstarting her acting career. Don Truby (Adam Sandler, “Grown Ups”) and Helen Truby (Rosemary DeWitt, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green”), a couple bored with their marriage, experiment with online dating sites and escort services on the sly.

There’s somewhat of a disparity between how high school kids actually interact with technology and how the film portrays them. The issues it tackles are real and show a deft view of Internet culture, but doesn’t always grasp the teenagers’ motivations behind their actions. When Tim talks about forming online friendships through a video game, he uses the abbreviation “IRL friends” (meaning “in real life”) in actual real life conversation. Cue cringing. It’s intended as a comedic moment to mock the linguistic change brought on by texting and instant messaging, but people don’t actually act like that. Instead, it takes on a moralizing tone that seems to come from an adult fascinated by the advent of technology that doesn’t quite get it.

On the other hand, some of the storylines work well. Allison’s (Elena Kampouris, “Labor Day”) efforts to impress a guy who only likes her for her looks bring on an eating disorder. She looks up pictures of skinny girls online and uses an online support system to motivate her not to eat. It only occupies a small percent of screen time, but it is raw and real.

Alongside all the complex subplots, there’s an overarching theme, centered on Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot, that none of it matters. The film opens and ends with with a too-long shot of the Voyager space probe overlooking the earth. The idea is that as seen from space, the earth is just a pale blue dot, so in the grand scheme of the universe, human life and all the complicated issues that come with it are meaningless. On its own, this could work, but stated in a way that is so pretentious to the point of satire, it’s hard to take this message seriously. It gets hammered in constantly, with shots from space interspersed throughout the movie and a grand total of three direct references to the same concept in the same book.

Maybe it’s because it uses a subject matter too intimately connected to our generation, but though “Men, Women & Children” successfully ties in many facets of the Internet’s effects, it doesn’t shed new light on its cultural significance. Besides, if you really ever wondered about how technology changes your life, you could always just ask Siri.

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