A drama centered on a group of people searching for human connections in today’s wired world. (IMDB)
Writer: Andrew Stern
Director: Henry Alex Rubin
Stars: Jason Bateman, Alexander Skarsgard. Andrea Riseborough, Jonah Bobo, Haley Ramm, Frank Grillo, Paula Patton
Run time/Rating: 115 Minutes/ R
Popcorn Score: Large Popcorn
Despite the number of times my wife and I discussed turning the movie off in the first 30 minutes because of the loosely connected stories that we were witnessing, choppy dialogue and early melodramatic scenes, we kept moving forward and were just as quickly moved by and engaged in “Disconnect”.
The reason why those early movie concerns became the strengths of the film is because all of the believable characters that were speaking and living in those dramatic stories. I believed that these people were tested enough and were pushed enough to act the way they did when facing each of their own crises. What you are left with as a viewer is a powerful and real drama that is unfortunately a very unappreciated and seen film.
The story is told in three separate but somewhat intertwining parts. As I mentioned this makes the film slightly more difficult to follow from the start but with that knowledge going in it should help.
One story focuses on the young couple Cindy and Derek (Paula Patton and Alexander Skarsgard). They are a young couple who have recently lost their baby and are struggling to have a new child. They are also struggling in their marriage and have both turned away from each other to cope in the difficult times. Cindy often visits a grieving chat room where she has made a connection with someone; Derek has turned to online poker. Due to one or both of their online connections, matters get worse for the couple when their identities are stolen.
The next story focuses on both a young man who is an online sex performer and young local news woman whose goal is to expose this underground sex trade market. She earns his trust and receives an interview but then becomes too close to the situation.
The final intertwining story centers on teenage bullying and the pain that everyone involved feels when the situation becomes as bad as it can. Jason and Frye (Colin Ford and Aviad Bernstein) are two young prankster punks who use Facebook and a fake profile to target the out-caster of the school, Ben (Jonah Bobo). Ben’s family is as normal as they come, despite perhaps a cellphone/computer addiction. They are quickly launched into a tragedy leaving the Father (Jason Bateman) to search of answers. The father of punk Jason is an IT security Investigator.
All of these stories and a number of the characters in each of them are all connected together by online activity, computers, cellphones, and laptops. This is where the movie’s contemptuous title comes from. In watching the additional features on the Redbox rental I learned that screenwriter Andrew Stern wanted to make a multi-storied film which dissected how we all are connected to something or someone all of the time. Many times however those people are acquaintances only through cyber space but strangers in real life.
What could have been simply a topical stab at how everyone stares at their IPhones all day long in 2013 was turned brilliantly into a story about real human beings who are facing real issues that could come up in anyone’s lives. Experienced documentary director Henry Alex Rubin’s focus was clear to tell a story about human interaction through both technology and in real life. He insisted that all the actors enlist only true emotions. Nothing was overdone in this movie, despite the very dramatic situations that come up.
All of the actors who followed those reserved directions could not have followed them better. Jason Bateman as the distraught father proves he is underutilized as a dramatic actor. Andrea Risborough was also very great with what she was given. Although one complaint I had with the film was how her character would likely not have tangled herself up in what she did. Additionally, I do not know why they chose to make her look so incredibly homely toward the end of the movie, other than the fact to show off her chameleon like abilities as an actress. I really enjoyed the performance by Frank Grillo as Jason’s widowed father and an IT investigator who is heavily involved in the identity theft storyline as well.
Despite my interest needing to ramp up into this movie throughout the first 20 minutes I was soon as engaged as I can get for a movie. The weaving of characters and pieces between the three central stories was eloquently done, all coming together to make one of my favorite movies of 2013.