Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reitman Returns to Thought Provoking Drama with the First Trailer for "Men, Women & Children"

Left to right: Ansel Egort and Kaitlyn Dever
One of the great things about the end of summer is that it marks the beginning of Oscar season. While films like Inherent Vice, Interstellar, and Foxcatcher have their positions planned out, there is still the actual race. Despite what prognosticators will say, there are very few instances where predictions in July will be the same in January. There's way too much that comes out that takes surprising turns. For instance, did anyone see Gravity as a Best Director winner from the first trailer? Alfonso Cuaron fans maybe did, but all of the attention was on 12 Years a Slave. With the first trailer for director Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children, he looks to be back and ready to surprise the world not only with a film about technology and how it isolates as well as potentially surprising performances. Is this going to be Adam Sandler's foray into the Oscar race? Knowing Reitman's abilities, it just might.

When it comes to Oscars, I always bet on Reitman to at least make the cut. Besides being one of my favorite directors, I find that there's something contemporary and earnest about his work that sets him apart. Whether he was doing dramas like Up in the Air or dark comedies like Young Adult, he had a bite that I find deeply invigorating. While Labor Day remains the most disappointing film of 2014, there is a chance that he can bounce back with Men, Women & Children. His work tends to get credit when it deals with harder hitting subjects like teenage pregnancy (Juno) or economic turmoil (Up in the Air). This film looks to be on par with the latter for immediacy and could end up being a surprise hit.

Then there are those that will pluck the strings and ask: Why even bet on something with Adam Sandler? Yes, the man behind Jack & Jill and Grown Ups 2 is hardly the vote of confidence. Even then, I am willing to bet some money that people will be surprised by him come this fall. Not only is he starring in Reitman's film, but he's also in director Thomas McCarthy's The Cobbler, which is his follow-up to the endearing Win Win. These are two prestigious directors with something to offer. Speaking as Sandler has also worked with Paul Thomas Anderson and James L. Brooks on more dramatic material, expectations can be raised, if just a smudge. Don't expect a runaway change of heart with film critics, but considering that Eddie Murphy got an Oscar nomination for Dreamgirls after years of dreadful comedies, anything is possible.

Even then, he isn't the main draw here. Ansel Egort is billed as the lead actor and gets the most to do here. Maybe he will be a surprise hit. Even then, I want to believe in Reitman, though Labor Day did leave me a little skeptical. He has done drama effectively before, but it was void of his charm and makes me worry that maybe this is an unfortunate turn in his career. Even then, his ability to get great performances out of lesser known or proven actors is exceptional. With Egort having a decent year so far with The Fault in Our Stars, maybe this will be what is necessary to get him into the race. It's far fetched, but it isn't entirely unlikely.

Check out the trailer:

Looks pretty good, doesn't it? If nothing else, this feels like it is trying to fall into the same category as American Beauty and The Social Network. It wants to commentate on society and how we interact with each other. It even feels like the latter in that its lo-fi music choice adds a melancholy, isolating feel to the entire thing. While the actual trailer doesn't do much beyond show imagery, it is nice to know that this film is out there. Yes, the trailer often feels like it is using gimmicky contexts to elaborate the technical side, but maybe it is just that Reitman's films have always been bad when it comes to trailers. They rarely capture tone perfectly.

Even then, I can see this film getting a lot of attention for being "important." Society has become reliant on technology and provided that a character study of the side effects can be done with impact, this could be something of merit. It could surprise. In fact, I want to believe that it is in the same vein as The Social Network in that it has a lot to say about the human condition when placed alongside a very operatic script. Even if the writer Erin Cressida Wilson doesn't quite have that impressive of a resume (Secretary, Chloe), there is one forewarning: last year's Best Adapted Screenplay winner John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) previously wrote Undercover Brother. Take a moment to look that up and then understand that it isn't all impossible.

There isn't much to say other than I am thankful that Reitman has gotten back on the radar so quickly after Labor Day proved disappointing. Men, Women & Children feels important, and I feel like it will get attention for that. I don't necessarily have faith that it will win, as the Academy doesn't really acknowledge youthful films as much as prestige films. Even then, I would like to be proven wrong. Either way, keep this film on your radar and see if it pans out. I personally think that it will because if Reitman has proven himself in the past, then he will be back again.

Will Men, Women & Children get Jason Reitman back into the Oscar conversation? Will contemporary films ever get enough respect to win Best Picture again? Will Ansel Egort or Adam Sandler pull in a surprise nomination?

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