Jason Reitman Navigates Terrifying Cyberspace With 'Men, Women & Children' (Exclusive Clip)
The man who defined youth zeitgeist when he introduced Ellen Page as a sardonic, pregnant teen in Juno, today debuts another film that pushes deep into contemporary teen issue territory.
Men, Women & Children, which opens today in limited release and expands nationwide on Oct. 17, introduces Ansel Elgort as a malcontented high schooler wading reluctantly through the always-on, always-connected digital age.
Jason Reitman spoke with Yahoo Movies about the film. The 36-year-old writer-director said he relied on Elgort and his younger cast members to enlighten him on the latest online trends, keeping the film grounded in today’s techno-reality.
Reitman also elaborated in our exclusive clip (above), a scene with Jennifer Garner a mom who stands relentless guard over her daughter’s online and phone activity.
Like Jennifer Garner in the film, you have a daughter. Do you act as an Internet and cell phone watchdog?
I’m not a watchdog because I don’t think you can be. There was a time where you could tell your kids, “Don’t watch R-rated films,” or “Here’s the keys to the car, but you need to be back by ten.” But we’re talking about a landscape that they have complete access to, whether you like it or not. My only presumption now is that 30, 50, 70 years from now the generation of that moment will look back at us and realize that we were lost. Technology landed at our feet fully formed and we’re figuring out how to make sense of it in our own lives and our children’s lives.
Ansel Elgort, who plays Tim, has a huge social media presence — more than two million followers. Did the young actors double as Internet consultants?
Absolutely. I don’t know how I would’ve done this film without those young actors. I think it was Elena [Kampouris, who plays a teen suffering from an eating disorder] who taught me how to use Snapchat, so I downloaded it. I tried doing a Snapchat and it still kind of confounds me. We had so many conversations about how they use Internet, how they converse.
Texting and Internet conversations have finally become commonplace in films. Why has it taken this long?
Five years ago one could treat the Internet as though it were this other thing that we’re commenting on, but at this point the Internet is the world we live in as much as the streets and the buildings we currently occupy. And we stare at our laptops and our phones way more than we stare at the outside world and we spend more time on those sites than we spend in the mall or at the park or in your house. The hardest thing, frankly, is replicating something that we’re all so familiar with.
What pitfalls did you navigate in depicting cyberspace?
We had to start from scratch and I didn’t want to replace everything in post, I wanted the actors to actually be interacting with the sites that they’re using as part of their acting. So, we created software to emulate the website so that when the actor is sitting at their desk or on their phone they’re using the website and things are clickable and searchable even though they’re populated with all of our photos, all of our posts, all of our comments, all of our ads and that goes from everything like Facebook and Twitter all the way down to Ashley Madison and Pornhub.
So, you’re on a “Thinspiration” page [an anorexia site depicted in the film]. Where do all those Thinspiration photos show up? We had to hire models who were thin and we had to show them Thinspiration pages so that they can emulate the body language that are in Thinspiration photos and then come up with our own slogan that we could put over the photos that we could populate that girl’s wall.
You use the website Ashley Madison’s proper name. How did that come about? Does Ashley Madison see it as a promotion?
Ashley Madison seems to be a proud partner on this film and they worked great with us, frankly. At the end of the day while Pornhub and Ashley Madison are not as ubiquitous as Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr, they are a part of our world and kind of an acknowledged part of our world, a part of the real estate and it’s not as though they get a couple dozen hits a day.