But why did critics pan it and audiences avoid it? It’s not really an objectionable premise: a bunch of teenage kids, and their square parents, realize that the internet is colouring and changing their interactions and relationships on every level. It’s got a big cast of talented people. But it all just feels so sad. So infinitely sad.
The characters are all connected but the movie feels disconnected. As a necessity, everyone’s reacting to their screens and not to each other. The internet’s destroying us! – not exactly an original idea – but Reitman goes at it ambitiously, and vehemently.
For a script about technology, which is rooted firmly in the now, from a director who’s usually fairly with-it (witty teenage abortion with Juno, recession fallout in Up in the Air), this movie feels awfully stodgy and seems to miss the point. Plus, every single scenario, each character in the movie, exists not to tell a story but to tell a cautionary tale, one that will bash you over the head with its obviousness.
But the biggest crime that Reitman commits is that he fails to see that all of this internet-is-evil proof on offer in this film actually makes the opposite case. Eating disorders predate cellphones. Cheating on your spouse came before the internet. Exploiting children? Adolescent heartbreak? Parents worrying about teenagers? All very possible even without the help or the hindrance of technology. The weird thing about this movie is that the greatest evil seems to be when technology’s in the hands of the parents, not the kids. They’re the ones making the biggest mistakes, and shouldn’t they be the ones to know better?
Jason Reitman took a big swing here, but he missed by a mile.