A Misanthrope’s Guide To The Movies: The Judge, Gone Girl, and Men, Women & Children

Fall break is gone, taking with it any and all fleeting excuses to pretend midterms don’t exist. Reality is back and it feels an awful lot like midnight cramming for a stats exam that you’re hard-pressed to care about. In the meantime, you’ll have to look elsewhere to find the enjoyment and excitement of life. For some of you, this may mean a virtual reality, for others, the hallowed halls of your local movie theatre. Or any movie theatre. Luckily, there happen to be several highly anticipated, star-studded films on the silver screen right now, and even luckier, I happened to have seen almost all of them. Here are the movies I saw over Fall Break (in between important dinners and being really popular), and how I felt about them:

Men, Women and Children

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Men, Women & Children was the first movie I saw this weekend, and perhaps the one for which I had the highest hopes. Despite the bad reviews, I didn’t really believe that the man (Jason Reitman) who brought us JunoUp in the Air, and Thank You For Smoking could make a movie that was all that bad. [Ed.: Did you read the reviews for January’s Labor Day?] I was wrong. Men, Women & Children is possibly worse than all that bad. The movie features strange, overwrought narration from Emma Thompson, who is not an actual character in the movie and seems to think that she is back on the set of Love Actually and has switched roles with Hugh Grant. Her narration is set to images of the Challenger shuttle hurtling through space, which does precious little for the actual plot of the film except to remind us that even if we’re just small specks on Earth, irrelevant in the course of time and space, our life can’t possibly be any more pointless than is Men, Women, and Children.

Featuring a cast led by Adam Sandler (you know him from Blended fame), Jennifer Garner, Dean Norris (you actually know him as Hank from Breaking Bad), and Judy Greer, Men, Women & Children aims to tackle the dangerous role of technology in modern society and how it negatively impacts our relationships. Unfortunately, for a movie trying to uncover a societal truth with which we can all relate, very little of the movie feeels grounded in truth, and the characters and circumstances are wholly unrelatable. The teens don’t talk like teens, but rather caricatures of high schoolers ruined by the Internet and created by a middle-aged parent writing a script. The adults in the movie behave perhaps even less realistically. One mom sells illegal, risque pictures of her underage daughter online, her neighbors both engage in virtual, technology-driven affairs on a nightly basis, and the mom down the block treats the Internet like the devil incarnate and her daughter like an inmate.

All in all, I would obviously not recommend seeing Men, Women & Children, though if you need firsthand experience to confirm that the newest Reitman film is nowhere near Juno, I understand. But be warned, by the end of the movie you’ll be wishing Ellen Page and Michael Cera were there to save you.

The Judge

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Another star-studded film out right now with less-than-stellar reviews is The Judge. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, and Billy Bob Thorton, The Judge tells the story of a hotshot city lawyer who returns home to small-town Indiana to defend his father–a judge with whom he has not spoken in years–in a murder trial. After seeing Men, Women & Children I hardly believed I could enjoy the art of film again, but The Judge made me think differently. Partly because I could watch Robert Downey Jr. do nothing but comb his hair for two hours and be entertained, and partly because I thought the movie was enjoyable on its own. It’s hardly the best movie I’ve seen in my life, but I found it to be a thoroughly satisfying use of my time and am very glad to have seen it. It’s a drama at heart, but I laughed at least a few times out loud, and smiled almost every time Robert Downey Jr. spoke.  So if you were planning on seeing Men, Women & Children this weekend, maybe reconsider. See The Judge instead. Or maybe just eat oatmeal and stare at a wall. I really didn’t like Men, Women & Children.

Gone Girl

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Last, but certainly not least, is David Fincher’s film adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel of the same name, Gone Girl, which has held the box office lead for two weeks now and is still selling out theaters well after its release. It’s not hard to guess why. People who read the book want to know what Fincher has done with it and if a film portrayal can possibly do the story justice. People who haven’t read the book want to see the movie so they can start pretending they read the book. Or just to understand why everyone is so obsessed with it.

After seeing the movie (having not read the book), I’m not really sure why everyone is so obsessed with it. Yes, there were a few twists I didn’t see coming, but that should happen in any good movie. Yes, there was intrigue. Yes, the acting was good and the story was exciting. But the ending felt hollow and unrealistic (more so even than the rest of the plot). That said, I cannot deny that this disappointment is almost certainly a function of my expectations. I’m not sure the movie could’ve done much more to live up to the hype. I just feel like there is too much hype.  That said, I do recommend seeing it, if only to know what everyone is talking about. The performances by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike are strong, and trying to guess the next turn of events is exciting. My prediction, however, is that the film will play better a few years from now when its viewer has fewer expectations.

Side note: The best movie I saw this break was Skeleton Twins. You can find an earlier BlogDH review of that movie here.

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