© Paramount Pictures Germany GmbH

#Zeitgeist (Men, Women & Children)
U.S.A. 2014

Opening 11 Dec 2014

Directed by: Jason Reitman
Writing credits: Jason Reitman, Erin Cressida Wilson, Chad Kultgen
Principal actors: Kaitlyn Dever, Rosemarie DeWitt, Ansel Elgort, Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner

A man-made object flies through outer space and approaches Saturn, which looks exactly like it was lifted from extra footage from the film Interstellar. From here we look back at the universe and see a teeny spot. It’s the famous “pale blue spot,” a photo of Earth taken from the Voyager 1 in 1990. This inspired astronomer Carl Sagan to write his book Pale Blue Spot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. Contrary to a first impression, this is not a science fiction film, but rather a round-about path to get us back to real life on Earth, specifically in Austin, Texas, USA.

Here we meet married couple, Don and Helen, looking for relationships with other people. Donna mans a website to further her daughter Hannah’s acting career. Tim quits the high school football team, to the consternation of his father Kent. Both have been abandoned by the mother, who fled to California into the arms of another man. Brandy is literally imprisoned in the clutches of her mother Patricia who controls her every computer and phone message. Allison is naïve and dieting to death.

Life truly is on earth, but it is also impacted by “outer space” in the form of the internet. The film mirrors how we live with ever-present computers. There is much less personal contact, even for something as intimate as sex (“were we ‘having’ sex?”), much less just normal face-to-face conversation. Today communication and friendships occur via on-line dating, games, texting. The school psychologist asks, “Do you have any real-life friends?” You learn abbreviations such as DTF or bj. (There is a whole list of internet abbreviations in case you are looking for a Master’s Degree topic!) We learn that a person is made up of a billion molecules and “cosmos-ly nothing matters.”

For two hours the camera follows these people in their daily lives at home and in high school. It goes slowly, but never seems boring. There is much talk, often in the crude language so popular today. The parents want the best for their children, while the children attempt to squeeze away from the inexpert, human mistakes of the parents. And overall are misunderstandings which can lead to fatal results. I definitely recommend Men, Women & Children, but go with friends, not family, because you might not be able to look each other in the eyes afterwards – although that might be an oxymoron, since you will be “looking” at them through your internet access anyway, even if you are travelling home together. (Becky Tan)

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