Men, Women, & Children
This movie deals with nearly
every sexual topic of “normal” people---particularly hormone-infused
a result, we are alternately shocked, embarrassed, and fascinated, like
discovering someone else’s porn collection. And we’re not sure what to
make of all this, except that maybe the “new normal” is that there is no
Adam Sandler gets in touch with
his serious (and downcast) side, as he plays Don Truby, the middle-aged
married man who routinely “takes care of himself” by masturbating in
front of computer porn.
But one day, when his computer is
malfunctioning, he decides he still needs visual aids, so he ventures into
his teenage son’s room, and there he finds----another porno collection?
This is “like father, like son” in a way
that the family systems gurus never intended.
Not surprisingly, Don’s sexual relationship
with his wife Helen (Rosemarie De Witt) is not that much fun for either one
of them. It’s
hard to tell whether his distraction caused her disinterest, or vice versa,
but in the end it doesn’t matter, neither one of them are “into” each
both independently decide to tarry “outside the realm” of marriage, he
into an unsatisfying congress with paid “escorts,” and she with serial
hookups on those “online dating” sites, yes, that are specifically
designed for married people who want to “experiment.”
(What happened to the 7th
commandment?) It’s all kind of depressing escapism, until the day when it
all comes to light, and when Helen walks back into the kitchen having been
“discovered” with a stranger in a bar, Don, preparing breakfast, simply
asks her, “What do you want?”
And when she begins to stammer out a stumbling
explanation, he says, “No, I meant, what do you want in your eggs?
That other stuff will just put unwelcome images
into our heads. Let’s
just talk about what you want in your eggs this morning.”
Well, that’s one mode of reconciliation, I
suppose, but most family counselors wouldn’t recommend it.
As for the teenagers, well, we
have the sort-of ordinary girl named Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever) with the
extraordinarily oppressive Mom (Jennifer Garner), who’s determined to
monitor her daughter’s every keystroke and movement and website perusal,
which only makes Brandy “sneak out” both physically and virtually (with
an online identity not yet discovered by her Mom).
She’s also trying to carry on a remarkably
“old school” dating-and-romance relationship with Caleb (Ansel Elgort),
who’s quit the high school football team in the wake of his Mom’s
abandonment of him and his Dad, so she can go find romance in California.
Caleb retreats to his online video games, as
well as online porn, until he risks being so online-interactive that he’s
forgotten how to relate to anybody in “R.L.” (real life).
Then there’s the cheerleader
who becomes anorexic because of the obsession around her with skinny bodies.
Later, she decides she’s ready to experience
giving up her virginity to a football player, but that doesn’t exactly
turn out to be the world’s great romance, either.
Then there’s the Mom who’s
so supportive of her daughter’s acting/modeling ambitions that she
actually takes suggestive photographs of her and posts them online, even
selling them, then is surprised when a potential “family-friendly”
talent agency turns them both down.
There’s the Dad who’s trying dating again,
fresh from a painful divorce.
And always, there’s the constant texting and
Facebook-checking and Tweet-absorption and social-media obsession that seems
to be overtaking us all.
All this in the context of Carl Sagen’s poem
about planet Earth being “the little blue dot” taken from the Voyager
satellite from a great distance, as if we’re all meaningless specks in the
universe because we all live on one.
Nobody ever mentions the Church
as a possible alternative; a place that attempts to develop genuine human
interaction and community, and also nurture faith in a personal God, and a
higher purpose for humanity other than self-centered ambition, and even
believing humans to be part of the greater scheme of things, like the coming
Kingdom of Heaven. Radical
bad we Christians are having a hard time figuring out how to be heard right
now, over the frenetic din of a myopic, digital, electronic, stressed-out
In “Men, Women, and Children,”
there’s a lot of knowledge and savvy, but not much wisdom and grace.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Parish
Associate at Woodhaven Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas