By Ray Bennett
Jason Reitman’s disdainful anthropological film “Men, Women & Children” looks at a small American town and sees only simple-minded, sex-obsessed parents and children who have never heard one word about the marvels of the internet, only its scuzzy side.
Book-ended with shots of the Voyager spacecraft, a narration delivered by Emma Thompson references Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot” with its reminder of Earth’s tiny place in the scheme of things.
To emphasise the point, Reitman zooms in on a group of grownups and youngsters who never go online for anything useful or positive but spend almost all their time glued to internet devices to gossip, watch porn, share sexual images or play war games.
The screen fills with the words, signs and images that these people text or e-mail to one another and then pays attention to their attempts to get laid, avoid getting laid, masturbate at the thought of it, or just talk about it.
Kaitlyn Dever and Ansel Elgort (pictured above) play more or less normal kids but even they retreat to online games while all the parents treat the internet as a foreign place with a language they do not understand.
As one of the parents, Jennifer Garner looks like a severe schoolmarm from an old western except she uses any amount of spy gadgets to monitor her daughter.
Thompson’s narration is delivered in posh English tones so that the porn references sound incongruous in much the same way that John Gielgud used vulgarity in “Arthur” but without the comic effect.
Spike Jonze’s recent “Her” had much to say about how we deal with the development of computers but with its superior attitude and narrow focus Reitman’s film adds nothing to the conversation.
Venue: Toronto International Film Festival. Opens: UK Dec. 5, US Oct. 17 (Paramount Pictures); Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kaitlyn Dever, Olivia Crochicchia, Judy Greer, Adam Sandler, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Garner, Dean Norris, Dennis Haysbert, J.K. Simmons, Emma Thompson; Director: Jason Reitman; Director of cinematography: Eric Steelberg; Production designer: Bruce Curtis; Editor: Dana E. Glauberman; Producers: Helen Estabrook, Jason Reitman; Production: Paramount Pictures, Right of Way Films. Running time 116 minutes.