By Mary Milliken
TORONTO (Reuters) - Adults who should know better engage in plenty of cringeworthy behavior over the Internet in the new film "Men, Women & Children," but director Jason Reitman says don't judge them too harshly.
There's the husband and wife having affairs, one through an escort site and the other through a hookup site, the mother who puts sexualized photos on a website to promote her teen daughter and another mother who strangles her daughter's life with zealous control of her social media.
"We are lost when it comes to this and 100 years from now we will look back and see this moment between 1995 and 2015 when we were just idiots when it came to computers," Reitman told Reuters before premiering the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival.
"We get to be that idiot generation, I guess."
Reitman, a four-time Oscar nominee for "Juno" and "Up in the Air," wanted to explore love, relationships, parenting, what keeps people apart, why they aren't more honest and what happens to their sex lives, rather than the issue of how we deal with the Internet and digital technology.
"The Internet is simply a location," Reitman said, one that people know very well and "that will actually become a seamless entry point to talk about the normal stuff."
'A LITTLE TOO FAR'
The film, based on the novel of the same name from Chad Kultgen, chronicles the struggles of a group of high school teenagers and their parents. Most of the problems are nothing new (bullying, anorexia, teenage pregnancy and promiscuity, withdrawal) but now much of the angst is played out on digital screens, shown by the quick-fire text messages popping up on the film screen.
Jennifer Garner is a mother who obsessively sets parental controls on her daughter's phones and computer, monitoring all interactions and encouraging other parents to do the same.
Reitman said that many people who see the film consider Garner's character to be "the sane, reasonable one."
"This movie gives you a whole buffet of reasons why you should protect your kids from the Internet," said Garner. "I can see why she started down that road. She just goes a little too far."
Adam Sandler and Rosemarie Dewitt are a sexually frustrated couple who prefer to seek pleasure elsewhere with the help of technology. Meanwhile, their popular son is addicted to online pornography and cannot initiate real sexual relationships.
So far, the movie has received mixed reviews. "Relatability often being a more reliable conversation-starter than quality, the film's universally applicable message, savvy packaging and excellent cast could inspire audiences to log on to the Oct. 17 Paramount release," said Variety film critic Justin Chang.
Reitman said people seem a little reticent to reach for their phone after seeing the film because it shows how much time individuals spend staring a devices rather than the world around them.
"People seem to come out of the movie in a bit of a daze, which I like," he said.
(Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Jonathan Oatis)