Oct 30

“Men, Women & Children”: What the Reviews Say

It is the year’s scariest film simply because it’s the year’s most realistic: Welcome to your nightmare. Tom Long, Detroit News, about Men, Women & Children

Jason Reitman‘s Men, Women & Children, adapted from Chad Kultgen‘s novel, is about human disconnection in the internet age. One common critique is that too much ground is covered and not well enough.

Andrew O’Hehir, Salon: “It’s partly teenage social realism, midway between a John Hughes movie and Larry Clark’s ‘Kids,’ partly a lecture from somebody’s mom about how no one talks to anyone anymore, dammit, and partly an ‘ironic’ reminder that love can go wrong in so many, many ways.”

Claudia Puig, USA Today: “Though the story initially appears to be headed in a thought-provoking direction, it becomes superficial in its exploration of our online lives. Almost a soap opera, it’s a predictable tale of angst-filled teens and their clueless parents. Think a computer-driven, de-fanged Crash, without the ethnic diversity.”

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: “It’s one of those multi-character morality plays — think ‘American Beauty’ meets ‘Crash’ — and it will play especially well to freaked-out parents, even as it distances itself from them by acknowledging that the kids (most of them, anyway) are all right.”

CHARACTERS AND PLOT

Christopher Orr, The Atlantic, offers a (snarky) synopsis that’s worth reading if you’re interested in knowing all the players:

Try to follow along as best you can. Don (Adam Sandler) and Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) are a married couple deep in the sexual doldrums: He cruises porn on their son’s computer, his own having become irretrievably infected with malware; she and he will both pursue extramarital dalliances online—her, through the cheating site Ashley Madison, him via an escort service. Their son, Chris (Travis Tope), is also addicted to Internet porn, to such a degree that he is unable to respond sexually to the aggressive advances of vixen-y sophomore cheerleader Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia). Hannah is herself an aspiring actress whose single mother, Joan (Judy Greer), is promoting the girl’s career—and pocketing some cash on the side—by publishing racy ‘private photo sessions’ of Hannah for pervy subscribers to her website. Joan becomes involved with Kent (Dean Norris), a father whose wife abandoned him to run off to California with another man.

Still with me? Deep breath:

Kent’s son, Tim (Ansel Elgort), reeling from his parents’ breakup, has quit his starring role on the football team, withdrawn into his room, and devoted his waking hours to the online fantasy game Guild Wars. Tim’s only real-life connection is a tentative quasi-romance with classmate Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever), whose paranoid helicopter mom, Patricia (Jennifer Garner) monitors her every virtual interaction—phone, email, Facebook, browser history—with a line-crossing avidity befitting the director of the NSA. Rounding out the digital horror show is the virginal Allison (Elena Kampouris), an anorexic who gets nutrition tips from a site called www.prettybitchesnevereat.com and who desperately wants to hook up with a jock so telegraphically sleazy that he might as well have ‘sex offender’ sewn across his varsity jacket. Finally, we have J. K. Simmons, who makes a token appearance as Allison’s dad, his only meaningful function being to reprise his Juno role as the Dad Who Finds Out His Underage Daughter Got Pregnant…

MIXED APPRECIATION FOR HOW THE THEMES ARE PRESENTED

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: “To its credit, ‘Men, Women & Children’ seems to allow for a rational middle ground between technophobic Luddites and the lamentably over-wired. It never turns down the moral panic entirely, but neither does it let it completely boil over.”

A.O. Scott, New York Times:

Mr. Reitman, who wrote the script with Erin Cressida Wilson…has the wisdom to realize that the Internet cannot entirely be blamed for the unhappiness he surveys…At the film’s beginning and its end, an omniscient narrator with the sensible voice of Emma Thompson explains that the root of the problem is that we’re all human.

True enough, but this conclusion undermines the film’s premise, dissolving the thematic glue that holds its stories together and emptying out the lessons it wants to teach. Veering between alarmism and cautious reassurance — between technohysteria and shrugging, nothing-new-under-the-sun resignation — ‘Men, Women & Children’ succumbs to the confusion it tries to illuminate.

THE TRAILER:

Feb 06

When Your Friends Need Therapy: How to Help Them Out

Do your friends need therapy? Have you ever tried to get one into therapy? I mean, other than using the old “You need therapy” and leaving it that.

Below are two pop culture examples of friends “encouraging” friends into therapy; in addition, one psychologist’s advice regarding this issue.

I. In this very brief clip from sitcom Seinfeld, Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) firmly tells George (Jason Alexander) not just that he needs therapy—but, in so many words, that he needs more than anyone can usually get:

II. In the dramatic film Reign Over Me (2007) Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle), a successful dentist who’s married with kids, isn’t as happy as he thinks he should be. Although he could use some therapy, he can’t seem to take that step.

By chance he runs into Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler), an old school roommate whose wife and kids were killed on 9/11. It’s made super-evident that Charlie needs professional help—and badly. It becomes Alan’s mission to get him that.

When Alan does manage to get the resistant Charlie to see a shrink (Liv Tyler), Charlie can’t tolerate it. He won’t open up; he won’t even stay in her office. She advises that if he can’t talk to her, he should find someone else to tell about the tragedy that’s so messed him up.

So, he does; he unburdens himself to friend Alan. Not long afterward, he tries to commit “suicide by cop.” Oops—guess he really wasn’t ready to talk. Now he’s in even deeper trouble.

Meanwhile, there’s something happening within Alan. Carrie RickeyPhiladelphia Inquirer: “As he extends a hand to help Charlie, the last thing Alan expects is that this simple act of kindness will be the shock therapy he needs to jump-start his own dead emotional engine.”

The trailer can be viewed below:

III. In her recent post “Encouraging Family & Friends to Seek Psychotherapy“, Jill Stoddard lists some do’s and don’ts. Consult the article for further explanation of her points.

  • DO begin by emphasizing how much you care and how worried you are.
  • DO NOT confront them or shout at them regarding some of their behavior or choices, as this will only lead to the person feeling ashamed, cornered, and defensive.
  • DO get the advice of local professionals, and consult their research or pamphlets when considering how to express your concern. Local support groups, psychotherapy clinics, and community centers are almost always willing to help.
  • DO NOT take this approach for the wrong reasons…Make sure you have sorted out your own motives before attempting to talk to this person. If not, they will likely see through your attempt, and it may damage your relationship.
  • DO realize that this is not the least-confrontational course of action, and may impact your relationship if the individual does not take the suggestion well.
  • DO NOT be impatient. Even if your friend has a non-negative reaction to your suggestion, he or she may not reach out for help right away.
  • DO offer to help this person seek therapy, whether that means finding a doctor, booking an appointment, or just giving him or her a ride to an appointment.
Nov 10

“Funny People”: Characters Could Use Some Therapy

Featuring “funny people” who aren’t necessarily happy people, the movie Funny People (2009) was written and directed by Judd Apatow, a former stand-up comic. It stars Adam Sandler as George Simmons, a successful comedian who discovers that he has a serious illness. Several other main characters are also comedians, and there are a good number of cameos by such actual comedic stars as Ray Romano and Sarah Silverman.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone raved that “…Apatow scores by crafting the film equivalent of a stand-up routine that encompasses the joy, pain, anger, loneliness and aching doubt that go into making an audience laugh.”

And Patrick Bromley, a critic who’s also been a comic, wrote: “What the film really gets, and what most previous stand-up movies haven’t, is the psychology of the comic. The comedians in Funny People are, for the most part, dark and angry people who don’t want to be funny so much as they need it; it’s the only tool that makes something like facing down your own death even possible. Comedy is both defense and offense, and provides the characters with a means of communicating with one another that the outside world simply cannot understand.”

As far as I know, however, no one in the movie goes to therapy.

If the idea of this movie interests you, and you’re not as turned off as I’ve been when reading the mixed reviews that attest to the length (2 and 1/2 hours) and a significant dose of crude language and sexual jokes, please check it out for yourself.