Men, Women & Children

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Men, Women & Children Movie Poster Image
Controversial drama explores impact, risks of online life.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 116 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The main message is that, taken to an extreme, online communication and social media can be addictive and unhealthy. Nothing should supplant authentic interaction between people; technology should enrich, not harm, real-life interactions. The movie warns about many dangers but also makes it clear that parents and teens need to talk openly and honestly about safety protocols, trust, and privacy. Themes addressed include infidelity, dishonesty, and manipulation -- as well as love, connection, and new beginnings.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Seriously, realistically flawed characters who make a lot of questionable, negative, and sometimes downright immoral decisions. It's tough to say that any of them is a true role model, although Kent, Tim, and Brandy come the closest to being thoughtful and well-intentioned. The other parents think they know what's best for their kids but are either smothering and overly controlling or too permissive. Some teens bully and/or take advantage of others; others suffer from severe lack of self-confidence.

Violence

A mother slaps her daughter for being disrespectful; a girl harms herself by not eating; a teenager has a miscarriage (she's shown unconscious, with blood running down her leg); a teenage boy overdoses on prescription pills and has to be hospitalized. After an angry football player throws something at Tim that instead hits Brandy in the head, Tim beats him pretty severely (some facial bleeding/lacerations). Additional verbal/cyberbullying. A teen character attempts suicide (he doesn't succeed). Teens and adults discuss 9/11.

Sex

Implied masturbation while watching Internet porn (videos show topless/very scantily clad women). Discussion of fetish porn. A mother takes sexy photos of her teen daughter and posts them online for paid subscribers. Another dresses somewhat suggestively as part of an online alter ego. Teens sext each other (graphic words). Dissatisfying first times (girls keep their bras on, the guys are shirtless -- one uses a condom, one doesn't). Casual adultery between married adults who meet online, including graphic "dirty talk" (but no graphic nudity). A married man has sex with a paid escort (more explicit sex talk, plus partial nudity showing the woman's breasts and her bottom in a thong). Two couples (one teen, one adult) have sweet romances with hand holding, kissing/making out, and embracing.

Language

Strong language frequently used by teens (and occasionally adults) in speech and texts. Words include "f--k," "motherf--ker," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "d--k," "p--sy," "c--k," "retarded," "t--ty," "douchebag," "f-g," and more.

Consumerism

Featured brands include electronics like Apple, Samsung, and Dell (cell phones, computers), cars like Mercedes and Dodge Ram, the game Words with Friends, and Woodbridge wine. Mall scenes show Vicoria's Secret and Hot Topic bags, plus other retail shops. Social media sites Facebook, Tumblr, and Ashley Madison (a dating site for people looking to have affairs) are prominently featured in the movie, as is the MMORPG Guild Wars.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink when hanging out at one another's houses. Adults drink wine and beer socially, mostly at bars and restaurants; one sips from a flask during a high school football game. A teen character takes prescription pills, presumably anti-depressants, which play a role in a suicide attempt.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Men, Women & Children is a timely relationship drama that explores the ways -- many of them unhealthy -- that social media, the Internet, and technology as a whole can affect teens and adults. Director Jason Reitman delves into all sorts of sordid and unsavory issues, from adultery and eating disorders to exhibitionist subscription sites, paid escorts, and pornography. The movie portrays teens having sex (including losing their virginity), sexting, having a miscarriage, posting inappropriate photos of themselves online -- and parents who use hook-up sites and exploit and impersonate their children on social media. Although there's graphic sexual content and frequent strong language (including "f--k," "s--t," and more), parents may want to watch it with their mature high schoolers to see, if only so they can talk afterward about the many important and relevant issues it references.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7, 9, 10, 13, and 16 year old Written byStrict dad October 12, 2014

Sex. Sex. Sex. Bad movie anyway,

I thought this movie was huge sh*t based on the trailer I don't care for this movie at all don't let your kids see it
Teen, 13 years old Written bykanselelgort December 10, 2014

Good and bad

I saw this movie because I love ansel elgort!! I saw it with a friend in the cinemas, and i was glad i didnt see it with my mum! The movie just got confusing as... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byjcoe10 July 30, 2016
A lot of abusive use of media. Porn is a big role in the movie.

What's the story?

Jason Reitman's MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN (based on the novel by Chad Kultgen) follows several interconnected teens and parents in suburban Texas, where football is king. There are cheerleaders like Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia) -- whose single mom, Donna (Judy Greer), takes sexy photos of her daughter for paying web subscribers in hopes of launching a modeling or acting career -- and formerly chubby Allison (Elena Kampouris), who spent the summer starving herself to achieve a thigh gap and hook up with a varsity athlete and turns to the web for "support" when she's tempted to actually eat something. There's football player Chris (Travis Tope), who's so addicted to deviant Internet porn that he can't get aroused by girls in real life. His former star teammate, Tim (Ansel Elgort), has decided to play an MMPORG instead of football in the wake of his mother's abandonment of him and his father (Dean Norris), while Tim's girlfriend, Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever), keeps her true online persona deep undercover because her high-strung mother (Jennifer Garner) tracks every single text, post, and chat Brandy engages in online. And Chris' parents, Don (Adam Sandler) and Helen (Rosemarie DeWitt), both find themselves looking outside of their stale marriage for the spark they so desperately miss.

Is it any good?

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the many different ways that social media and technology have changed the way people communicate, particularly teens -- both with one another and with parents. Is the movie realistic? Do you think it gives a fair and balanced view of how technology affects our lives?

  • How does the movie portray sex and sexuality in regards to the social media age? Is it more realistic than other movies? Why or why not? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values on these topics.

  • Some bullying takes place in the movie -- both verbal and in cyber form. How do the affected characters react? How do you think you'd react in their shoes? Why is it important to be an upstander?

  • Jennifer Garner's character is hyper vigilant about her daughter's media and technology use. Are her concerns valid? How is it made clear that she takes things too far? What might be a better way for parents and teens to approach limits and guidance when it comes to online life?

  • The film refers to websites that connect people who want to have affairs or hire escorts. How does the movie portray these sites? What are their real-life risks, and are the consequences fully explored in the story?

Movie details

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