Essentially, this feature is about sex, and our ever-changing relationship with it thanks to the development of new technology, and how the two, these days, seem to go hand in hand. Focusing in one community in particular, we meet a myriad of school kids, from the likes of Tim (Ansel Elgort) and Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever), to Chris (Travis Tope) and Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia). While they contend with a naïve, unenlightened and somewhat curious take on sex and relationships given their impressionable age, we also meet all of their respective parents, who, while believing themselves to be in a more superior position, are equally as lost themselves.
We meet Jennifer Garner’s Patricia, who is overly protective of her daughter, to Judy Greer’s Joan, who is far too careless with hers. We also study the relationship of Don (Adam Sandler) and Rachel Truby (Rosemarie DeWitt), while also delving into the life of the recently separated Kent Mooney (Dean Norris). Given the satirical edge to the piece, and the astute comment on a contemporary society, this film certainly bears a resemblance to recent drama Hits – yet this is a more subtle, naturalistic turn.
That’s not to say that Reitman isn’t offering a heightened take on reality, as a film that can be farcical at times, as the director uses his artistic licence creatively. Yet he never deviates too far from real life, feeling authentic, if somewhat exaggerated, in the depiction of how we relate to sex nowadays through technology; dating websites, adult websites, cheeky snapchats, and so on. However where this film does come into its element, is how Reitman revels in the notion of imperfection, and how as a race we’re so inherently flawed – and led, at times, by sexual desire. The sentiment that feels most prevalent in this title is how age doesn’t truly matter – parents may seem to be more mature, to set an example for their children, and yet they too can have warped, damaged sexual relationships.
It’s fascinating how we view this notion from both sides too – as we move seamlessly between the narratives concerning the teenagers, and then those of their parents, while they inventively interlink throughout. The teenagers perceive their parents to be sticks in the mud, as though they implement rules just to piss them off. The parents, on the other hand, are frustrated because their actions are led by love and responsibility – and yet it’s that same anxiety which can blinker their view on reality, and struggle to embrace their child’s interests, and relationship with the internet. The viewer, however, offers an unbiased, omniscient perspective, able to see both sides of the argument, and appreciate both can be right or wrong. This is reflected in Emma Thompson’s impartial narration, and inclination to discuss the universe and how we’re merely but a speck – enhancing the sense of triviality of our actions, and just how similar we all are.
Nonetheless, given this is an ensemble piece, we do struggle to get emotionally engaged or invested in any particular character and their predicament. We move around freely and dip in and out of story-lines, but ultimately this makes for a detached picture that struggles to compel and engross.