All-star cast can’t save confusing plot

“Men, Women & Children” struggles with lack of characterization and storytelling

Winston Eng, Staff Reporter

What could have been a tightly-worded, effective tool to demonstrate the social crisis overtly embedded in modern society, is no more than a confusing and honestly frustrating 119 minutes of stories which have failed to have been fleshed out.
          Despite an all-star cast and a visually cohesive narrative, “Men, Women & Children” fails to escape the confusion it artificially creates. Instead, it develops a fickle attitude towards producing the profound statement it intended to decrypt. It creates a contradiction, zero-ing in on what actually is plaguing our current means of communication.
          In the beginning of the film one of the main characters, Tim Mooney (played by the recent Ansel Elgort), references Carl Sagan’s quote “Pale Blue Dot” pointing out that potentially, the actions of our lives mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. In the same vein of solemn acceptance, “Men, Women & Children” ends up producing a slice-of-life that’s all too blasé about its own impact on the audience.
          Had this film fallen under the reins of parody, perhaps it could have made up for the lack of characterization by utilizing satirical, off-putting humor; regrettably, this is not the case, and the film does little to justify its own existence.
          On paper, Jason Reitman’s latest debut has the making of a film which depicts the struggles associated with dissatisfaction. With topics sourcing from a theme of excess and related empowerment, it’s surprising how little each individual story interwoven throughout the plot was actually detailed.
          Consistently, I wanted to know who these people were and why they represented such one-dimensional issues. It’s one thing to have backgrounds that evoke a sense of discomfort and melancholy. Yet, when the characters are unlikeable (and frankly uninteresting), it is very difficult to believe that such dramatic roles deserve the sympathy and pity they seek to receive, and wrongly think they deserve.
          It was difficult to watch Kaitlyn Dever (who plays Brandy Beltmeyer in the film) and Ansel Elgort struggle with what script they had, but their screen times alongside a surprisingly effective performance by Adam Sandler (playing Don Truby) manage to keep some resemblance of a plot afloat.
          Was this a movie about teenage angst? Societal pressures? The impact of Social Media? Adultery? Depression?
          Granted, all of these ideas are interconnected; however, the bigger message becomes obscured by the paths of each of the different characters. Perhaps such a message is so subtle to the point of seeming subconscious, that by providing the confusion of this film, more discussions on these topics may be had.
          Regardless, “Men, Women & Children” does not seek to explicitly cater towards the audience in any known definition and, ultimately fails to produce a message worth its run time.
          However, if you would like to explore the film for yourself, it currently runs at the Cedar & Lee Theatre.