Jason Reitman has brought all six of his films to the Toronto film festival. The first, “Thank You For Smoking,” put him on Hollywood’s radar while the next two — “Juno” and “Up in the Air” — reaped multiple Oscar bids, including for Reitman. However, his most recent pair, “Young Adult” and “Labor Day,” which showcased Oscar champs Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet respectively, underperformed.
He returns to form this year with “Men, Women and Children,” an exceptionally strong ensemble film that explores the ways and means by which social media isolates us all. Reitman co-adapted Chad Kultgen‘s 2011 bestseller with Erin Cressida Wilson (“Secretary”). They have fashioned a story which gives equal play to both the fortysomething parents and the teenagers as they struggle to connect with each other.
Reitman takes his time to lay out the storylines: a couple (Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt) drifting apart, each of whom turns to the net to find someone new; their son (Travis Tope) whose flirtation with a cheerleader (Olivia Crocicchia) soon sours; her mother (Judy Greer) who is posting salacious photos of her online and looks to her new love (Dean Norris) for approval; his son (Ansel Elgort) who drops football in favor of online gaming and his burgeoning romance with a girl (Kaitlyn Dever) whose mother (Jennifer Garner) is overprotective to the point of danger.
That these disparate tales come together as neatly as they do is a testament to Reitman’s skills as both co-screenwriter and director. Emma Thompson‘s wry narration punctuates many scenes and underscores the theme of the film as does the use of visual representations of all the texts and emails being sent and received by the characters.
While the film feels very of the moment, it should play well to older academy members, especially those who may not make use of all this social media but believe it to be a waste of time. And the large cast, with its mix of headliners, character actors (including J.K. Simmons in a small but pivotal part) and rising stars, is a sure bet for a SAG Ensemble nomination.