"Juno" director Jason Reitman was back at the Toronto film festival Saturday with ensemble drama "Men, Women & Children," chronicling hunger for intimacy in a world where connections are increasingly electronic.
It's a Luddite's nightmare: websites that encourage spouses to cheat, child pornography, online bullying -- how is a parent to protect their children, and themselves, from these new threats?
Based on the dark novel by Chad Kultgen, "Men, Women & Children" delves into the personal lives of a couple whose marriage is devoid of intimacy, a girl seeking advice on being a better anorexic, a teenage boy feeling lost and empty after his mother leaves, and others, with narration by Emma Thompson providing a cosmic view of their small, insignificant universe.
Starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Dean Norris of the acclaimed television series "Breaking Bad," and Judy Greer, it's "what we're all going through... figuring out how to find intimacy in this Internet age," said screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson, whose previous work "Chloe" became director Atom Agoyan's biggest box office hit.
"We don't know what we're doing with (social media and smartphone) technology yet," said Reitman. "It arrived at our feet fully formed. It's like at the advent of the car, instead of a Model T, we got a Ferrari and we didn't know how to drive it.
"But look, we got the Arab Spring and #Fergusson (outrage expressed over Twitter about the Ferguson, Missouri police shooting of an unarmed black teen), and at the same time we got this nonsense that happened this past week (celebrity nude photo hacking).
"It's a reflexion of the best and worst of us, it's a mirror. It's a place where in secret we become more honest and in doing so we're going to find the lightness and the darkness within us."
In the film, Adam Sandler reminisces about his father discovering a stack of porn magazines in his room, which is later contrasted with his own son who suffers from sexual dysfunction because he has watched too much gritty porn online.
While his wife looks to online dating to try to feel the love she once shared with her partner, he browses hooker personals online.
- Knowledge, and freaky stuff -
"Absolutely... you realize there is stuff out there that can be painful to everybody and it's right there if you click a button," Sandler said.
"It's pretty awesome what the Internet can give you (such as a wealth of encyclopedic information), but (there's also) the freaky stuff," he said.
For Sandler, it is a departure from the comedic roles that have made him a top box-office draw. He is also appearing the Toronto film festival premiere of acclaimed writer-director Thomas McCarthy's "The Cobbler."
Jennifer Garner plays an overly protective parent in the film. In real life she said she only uses the Internet to search for recipes, and still demands handwritten letters from nieces and nephews.
"I don't even use this stuff at all, so I'm so behind I have to get on all these things before my daughters are wanting to be on Instagram or Facebook or whatever, is it Timbler or Tumblr?
"It's terrifying as a parent to face this whole new world of technology," she said.
- Learning curve for all -
But Ansel Elgort, known for playing Tommy Ross in the remake of the movie "Carrie," based on Stephen King's 1974 novel of the same name, said it's a misconception that children know more about technologies than adults.
"You say the parents aren't (on top of) it, but the kids aren't" always either. ... There's a big learning curve for everyone," he said.
Elgort confided that he got his first smartphone at age 15. He is 20 years old.
"It's so crazy how it's changed things in such a short period of time," he said.
Reitman in filming "Men, Women & Children" said he tried to capture our widespread use of smartphones and computers in the film by turning the silver screen into a big desktop.
Icons and tabs show up on the movie screen as they would on a computer, with pop ups and windows.
"What's surprising is how normal it is, and (people's) response is 'Oh, yeah, that's how life is,'" he commented.
"It's a frightening response because it shows just how much of our life is down here," he said, gesturing to a smartphone in his hand, "instead of up here (making eye contact again)."