Parents' Guide to

Men, Women & Children

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Controversial drama explores impact, risks of online life.

Movie R 2014 116 minutes
Men, Women & Children Poster Image

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Kids say (4 ):

Reitman captures the ethos of the Internet age by showing close-ups of computer and smartphone screens as well as text messages that pop up in all their emojii glory as they're sent. It's the age of looking down at a screen instead of directly at other people, so every comment can be cattily dissected or mocked even as real-life conversations take place. The teen actors are all scarily believable in their roles, and although they're all good, Elgort and Dever stand out as the most worthy of the audience's investment. Elgort, who perfectly employs his brooding look and killer smile, questions his place in a universe where his mom has up and left for California with her lover, and Dever is beautifully expressive as a daughter so controlled by her uptight mother that she never knows when her mom will delete a text or unfriend someone on her behalf.

With so much going on, it's hard for Reitman to adequately focus on all of the movie's storylines. The adults, with the exception of Sandler and DeWitt, who each embark on Internet-aided affairs, aren't as well-developed as the teens in the film. While Greer's Donna is realistically (and even sympathetically) conflicted over how she let things with Hannah's website go so far, it's a shame that Garner's character -- the only adult who seems at all concerned about any media issues from the get go -- is portrayed as such an incredibly over-the-top helicopter parent. And some of the movie's plot elements seem overly obvious/heavy handed, even if there really are moms who impersonate their kids online, boys who are addicted to online porn, and girls who get pregnant after having sex just once. Yes, this is a cautionary tale (and watching as a parent, it's also more than a bit horrifying), but ideally it should spark "RL" (real life), face-to-face conversations about everything from sex and privacy to depression and self harm.

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