TCFF 2014 Opening Night Festivities + ‘Men, Women & Children’ review

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Today’s the day! The fifth annual Twin Cities Film Fest kicked off with the Minnesota premiere of Jason Reitman’s latest drama, Men, Women & Children. As he always does year after year, TCFF Executive Director Jatin Setia introduced the film and asked the packed audience to give him a five to commemorate our fifth year bringing the film fest to cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike in the Twin Cities and beyond!

Jatin also pointed out the social cause that our film fest bring to the community since year one, when the social theme of the year was education, hence Waiting for Superman was the opening night film back in 2010. We’ve since introduced a CHANGEMAKER series, with the tagline ‘Watch. Learn. Act.’ Check out this FREE event on Friday, Oct 24 at 6:30 event, presenting “Breaking Free from the Life” documentary, followed by Survivor Panel event at Showplace ICON Theatre Lobby.

OldFashioned2015Early in the evening, just before the first screening of the year, I had the privilege of chatting with Rik Swartzwelder, the writer/director/star of Old Fashioned, which will have two showings at TCFF! I’m glad we’re showing a film like this, a classic romance where two people attempt the impossible … an “old-fashioned” courtship in contemporary America. Now that is rare indeed in today’s culture. I really enjoyed our conversation, so stay tuned for the full interview transcript later this week!

Here are some pics from tonight’s festivities:

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And lookie here… the lovely Haley Lu Richardson, who’s got not one but TWO films screening at TCFF, is in town and having a blast! Looking forward to chattin’ with her tomorrow morning 😀


Can’t help joining on the fun, too w/ my pal Julie 😀

 


Now on to the first TCFF review of the year…

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Men, Women and Children (2014)

Jason Reitman has a knack for portraying interesting [read: quirky] relationships in his films. This is his sixth feature film and once again he explores relationships and its predicaments. This time it’s set in the age of the internet, as Emma Thompson narrates throughout the film whilst we’re shown views of earth from space. The film is a blatant commentary of how we are inevitably affected by the enormous social change that comes through digital devices such as our phones, tablets, laptops, etc. that many of us can’t live without. Nobody is immune, as the title of the film says, the internet affects every man, woman and child [except perhaps the Amish people] and alters how we deal/view relationships with each other.

It’s a topic that’s as relevant and timely as ever, and the concept itself is appealing because most of us today can relate to this. Alas, I don’t think the execution quite hit the mark here. The performances are good but somehow the story took too long to built, and in the end it just wasn’t as engaging as I’d have liked it to be. Right away the theme of the film reminds me of Disconnect which also deals with how ‘disconnected’ we have become in an age where everything is readily available to us at the touch of a button. That film isn’t perfect either but I think it did a better job in telling the story and made us care for the characters.

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Except for a few, most of the characters don’t feel real to me, they’re more caricatures painted with such broad strokes of opposite extremes. One set of parent is waaay too strict about protecting their kids from the danger of the internet, and the other are waaaay too loose that they lose sight of even the most basic societal boundaries are in regards to what/how much one should share online and such. A lot of these characters are so predictable, you expect them to behave in a certain way and voila, they do exactly that. Most of the young actors playing the teens seem so awkward here, and their story lines are too heavy-handed but in the end they’re not fully-realized either.

Adam Sandler gives a restrained performance as one half of a couple in a troubled marriage, with Rosemarie DeWitt playing his bored housewife. Their marriage is as lethargic as the way these interwoven stories are portrayed. Try as I might, the stories just don’t quite captivate me. DeWitt’s scenes with Dennis Haysbert is perhaps one of the most cringe-inducing scenes I’ve seen all year. I know it’s supposed to be awkward given the circumstances, but it’s the way it’s directed that’s problematic, so I don’t blame the actors. It’s too bad as I like DeWitt as an actress and I think Sandler does have dramatic chops when he choose to use it. I’m more impressed by the secondary characters played by Ansel Elgort, Kaitlyn Dever and Dean NorrisJennifer Garner is as dour and stern as I’ve never seen her before, playing an overprotective & controlling mother that undoubtedly produces the opposite effect of what she’s trying to achieve.

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The use of music is a bit odd too, sometimes the songs played are so loud that it felt jarring, and others there’s not a single sound as the camera zooms in on an actor’s face with no word is spoken. The visuals are as somber as the stories, the muted color palette just isn’t aesthetically pleasing here. But the look of the film is the least of the its problems. I just think Reitman, who’s a gifted filmmaker who’s made terrific work such as Thank You For Smoking and Up in the Air, is trying too hard here in striving to be profound and philosophical. Now, the themes presented here certainly are thought-provoking and the idea that face-to-face human relationships just can’t be replaced by technology isn’t lost on me. I just wish the film were more engaging as I found myself looking at my watch a few times, even as the last third did improve a bit in terms of pacing. Perhaps a more straight-forward approach and injecting a bit more humor into this might’ve made the film more palatable and entertaining. It’s not a terrible film per se, but I expected a lot better from Reitman.

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Well that’s it for Day 1 folks, stay tuned for more TCFF coverage in the coming days!

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41 thoughts on “TCFF 2014 Opening Night Festivities + ‘Men, Women & Children’ review

  1. Great post Ruth. I had hoped Men Women and Children might be better than this as it has an interesting concept. I’ll still check it out when it’s released over here but I’ll keep my expectations low.

    1. Hi Natalie, the concept is indeed interesting but I didn’t think the execution works for me. Might still be worth a rental or matinee showing though, maybe you’ll like it more than I did.

    1. Hello James! I think it’s worth seeing when it’s out on rental as the subject matter is timely. Thanks for stopping by, hope you’ll stick around for more TCFF reviews 🙂

        1. I just chatted with a very gifted young actress who has two films screened at TCFF. Hope you’ll stop by to check out the interview. More reviews are coming too of course 😉

  2. Ted S.

    I really enjoyed Thank You For Smoking and Up in the Air but it looks like Reitman might need a change of genre since his last few films weren’t so successful and he seems to want to do the same thing over and over again. I might give this one a rent though.

    1. I don’t even remember what his last film was but yeah, those two films are my fave of his. Haven’t seen Juno yet, not all that excited about it for some reason.

  3. Too bad the movie disappoints. Draft Day wasn’t good either – hopefully the director is just slumping.

    But, on balance, at least the fest is off to a good start. 🙂

    1. I didn’t realize he did Draft Day too. Yeah sometimes even the best filmmakers hit a slump. Hopefully his next one would be a return to form. But yeah, the film fest is off to a great start. Wish you could attend at least one of the days, but hey there’s always next year 😉

  4. Sounds like a fun experience to go to. It’s a shame the opening film didn’t live up to those expectations as everyone is now saying that Jason Reitman is in a serious slump. He needs to reunite with Diablo Cody who is also in trouble after her own directorial debut didn’t go anywhere.

    1. Hi Steven, sorry for the tardy reply. It’s been a hectic weekend and next week will be nuts! Yeah too bad about Reitman but he’s a talented director so hopefully he’ll get back on track soon enough. I forgot what film Cody was working on lately, but yeah the two should collaborate again.

      1. The film Cody directed was something very forgettable that featured Octavia Spencer and Julianne Hough that went nowhere which I wasn’t surprised since Hough couldn’t act to save her life.

  5. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ruth:

    Thanks for giving me a reason to see, ‘Men Women Children’.

    Kaitlyn Dever. Whom you note as a secondary character, also played secondary and returning character, Loretta in ‘Justified’. Very attractive and far older, wiser and sly than any teenage girl needs to be. A great foil for Raylan (Timothy Olyphant).

    It’s be nice to see her playing a different character!

    1. Hi Kevin! Dever is very good here, she & Ansel Elgort had a nice chemistry and their storyline was one of the most engaging. Hey I’d love for you to do a post on ‘Justified,’ I know how much you LOVE that show and I think a lot of FC readers love it too 😉

  6. The premise of Men, Women and Children reminds me of Disconnect too, although the latter sounds underwheling. Such a shame, as Jason Reitman used to be a director I could count on every time. Hopefully his next project will be a return to form!

  7. Jason Reitman’s movies has been hit and miss for me. I enjoyed Thanks For Smoking but Up In The Air which was critically acclaimed didn’t appeal to me. Too bad to hear his latest is another miss but I enjoyed reading your thoughts on it.

    1. Oh Up in the Air is actually quite good, and I’m not even a fan of Clooney. I think the two female cast, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick are worth checking out in that film.

  8. Nice to see you covering TCFF again, Ruth!

    It’s too bad this film was such a dud. I loved Reitman’s first four films, but skipped over Labor Day due to the poor reviews. I’ll probably end up skipping this one, too. Hopefully he gets back on track with his next project.

  9. I read a similar review about Men, Women & Children not too long ago. It’s too bad, because I LOVE the idea and the cast, so I was hoping for something more. I was such a big fan of Up in the Air, that I thought Reitman could do it again. Sounds like overall, he just missed the mark with this one.

    BTW, looks like you’re having a ton of fun at TCFF! I have been traveling and sick the past several days, so I’m just now starting to play catch-up! Loving your posts so far, Ruth!

    1. Hey Kris! Thanks so much for all your comments on my TCFF coverage, I hope you can be here next year w/ Matt 🙂

      I think Men, Women & Children is still worth a rental, but yeah, a disappointment from his stellar work in Thank You For Smoking & Up in the Air. I do think he can bounce back and do great work again tho.

        1. Hey sounds good!! Would love to hang out w/ you guys again. Perhaps we can rent a movie again like last time so it’s much more relaxing 😀

  10. I have been seeing this movie promoted everywhere. I couldn’t tell whether it looked good or not. From your review, not sure if I am as enticed into seeing it as before. Sounds rather bland.

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  12. I’m intrigued by some of the performances, but Men, Women & Children does look problematic. Hopefully, Reitman will bounce back after this and Labor Day.

    1. Once you rent it, I’m curious to hear what you think of Men, Women & Children, Josh. It’s not horrible per se, just could’ve been so much better given the talents involved.

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