Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The new film Disconnect (opening today) will one day be looked at as one of the most accurate time capsules depicting what life was like in the Facebook, social media & internet era of American society. Like many good films, it takes familiar gimmicks and plot points and presents it in a whole new light - connecting the dots, if you will - between two ideas or concepts that existed previously, creating a refreshingly new experience in the process.
Disconnect will surely be compared to the 2004 Oscar Award Winner for Best Picture, Crash, which depicted several different story strands that at times interconnected, weaving itself into an interesting tapestry of characters and themes. Disconnect is structured in a similar fashion, given the new twist of putting these characters in a tech-driven world.
Watching Disconnect, I realized that no other movie that I've ever seen has so perfectly captured how we currently live our day-to-day lives. Most of us wake up and immediately check our phones. We spend a great majority of the day in front of a computer, on our phones chatting, texting, checking the weather or looking up items of interest. We get in our cars and use GPS technology to get us where we need to be. We spend our evenings in front of a TV, with our phones still ever so close by and the most discipline any of us show is to dock our phones away from our beds, in a separate room. Yes sleep has become the only activity that we value more than technology.
So each character in Disconnect represents the thrills, the obsession and the dangers of this lifestyle. If you are human, you will relate to more than one of these people.
In one story, distant dan Rich (Jason Bateman) and his wife Lydia (Hope Davis) are clueless to the fact that their son Ben (Jonah Bobo) is a distant loner on the verge of self-inflicted tragedy. Creating a fake Facebook account, Jason and Frye (Colin Ford & Aviad Bernstein) - two high schoolers with nothing to do - show us what bullying looks like in the 21st century.
Then there is reporter Nina (Andrea Riseborough), who befriends an online sex chat room guy (for lack of a better description, and played by Max Thierot) for an expose piece. This guy, Kyle, has used his good looks to land him a well-paying job, but he's never thought much about the future. His pseudo-family of like-minded online-sex-for-hire youth is the only family he's got, but until Nina, he's never had a real face-to-face connection.
Derek and Cindy (Alexander Skarsgard and Paula Patton) are a couple who become the victims of identity theft. When their bank account is wiped out and they are given no real help from the authorities, they hire Mike (Frank Grillo), a former cop and current private eye, to look into the case. Derek's internet gambling problem and Cindy's secret online chat habit are both potential activities that led to the fraud.
Private eye Mike just happens to be bully Jason's father, and so on and so on. But although this ensemble of characters are connected via technology, there are few human connections to go around. Thus, the irony and the brilliance of what is going on here.
The film is not without flaws - text conversations, or internet chat sessions do not necessarily convert into high-powered drama, and I could have done without an over-the-top cheese-tastic slow-motion sequence that over-emphasizes the breaking point of each character's arc - but these are minor complaints when compared to all of what the film does right.
Disconnect has much to say about our current society and how these different tools have infiltrated our lives. It pleads for us to remember the uniqueness of human connection and the power a real friend yields over a Facebook friend. When one young girl is asked what she plans to do down the road, her goal is to, I don't know, maybe star on a reality show or something. There is an inherent laziness that has come with the conveniences brought forth by innovation. Sadly, many of us are drawn to social media not out of convenience, but for our growing fear of real human interaction.
Also sad, the lady sitting next to me in the screening may have missed some of these important themes...she was too busy checking her cell phone every so often.
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Run Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Frank Grillo, Paula Patton, Andrea Riseborough, Alexander Skarsgard, Max Thieriot, Colin Ford, Jonah Bobo, Michael Nyqvist, Aviad Bernstein
Written by Andrew Stern
Directed by Henry Alex Rubin (first dramatic feature, directed the documentaries: Murderball and Who Is Henry Jaglom?)
Opens locally on Friday, April 19, 2013
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