Despite its feel, director Jason Reitman’s (Labor Day) latest examination of society is less satire and more truthsaying, though the delightful narrative line by Emma Thompson (Bridget Jones’s Baby) might confuse you on that point. The result is an entertaining, but somewhat harrowing view of the world of digital communication across both gender and generational lines.
Reitman co-wrote the film with Erin Cressida Wilson (Girl on the Train), both of whom have juggled complex storylines in their work. This story is no exception, but despite the scope attacked in this film it is all kept clear and relate-able. It works, in large part, thanks to the solid performances of the ensemble.
- Adam Sandler (Hotel Transylvania) and Rosemary Dewitt (La La Land) struggle with marriage.
- Judy Greer (Grandma) and Dean Norris (Remember) are focused more on how much to intercede in their children’s digital lives. While Greer’s onscreen daughter, Olivia Crocicchia (Rescue Me), must face the realities of what and how much to reveal; the line between fame and loss of self.
- Elena Kampouris (Cobbler) battles victimhood of her self-identity.
- Ansel Elgort (Allegiant) and Kaitlyn Dever (Laggies) attempt to find safe harbor during existential crises. These two, of the younger cast, had the most interesting and layered characters and became the central spine of the movie.
- Around them all spins Jennifer Garner (Nine Lives) in the disturbing role of trying to control all of the above. Their are consequences, positive and negative, for that effort.
Finally, there is also a narrative line that follows the Voyager satellite, narrated hysterically and with appropriate gravitas by Emma Thompson. While an interesting and poetic layer to add to the rest of the story, it may have been an element too far. Thompson’s narration could have existed without it, though it would have had less reason to drive the tale. The story of the various people stood on its own well enough, and the journey of Voyager didn’t quite click for me as a parallel nor as the message Reitman hoped for.
Overall, this is an effective and philosophical movie. And while that may not sound entertaining, it is. You’ll find hooks that you can relate to in at least one of the threads and Thompson’s commentary alone is riot.