Disconnect, from first time feature director Henry Alex Rubin, is a Crash-like melding of a series of stories. With it’s ills of the internet theme, one could see it as a Crash for the cyber age… a Cyber Crash.
In the hands of any other filmmaker, Disconnect would probably wallow in the shadow of that winner of Best Picture. But, with Rubin’s background as a documentarian, the chronicle here is expertly detailed and paced perfectly.
The ensemble picture has a great cast including Jason Bateman, Paula Patton, Alexander Skarsgard, Hope Davis and Max Thieriot (The House at the End of the Street).
As teased in the Disconnect trailer, Bateman and Davis are parents to a teen boy, who is painfully shy. When a girl takes an interest in him on Facebook, he suddenly comes alive. Only in a Catfish-type of storyline, she is a couple of male classmates who have only one intention: Bullying him once he falls for this fictional girl.
Patton and Skarsgard are a couple who are struggling in their marriage. When their finances are wiped out in a case of internet fraud, they Disconnect and try to find justice and in the process… may save their union.
Meanwhile, Thieriot is a live teen sex chat star who seems to be doing fine, until a TV reporter (Andrea Riseborough) charms him and tells his story on the evening news.
All of the vignettes will intertwine, some well and others somewhat forced. But, Disconnect’s heart is in the right place. And Rubin never gives the audience his message with a heavy hand, although there was one penultimate scene where worlds collide that brought a collective gasp from the screening audience that I haven’t heard in some time.
The issue we have with Disconnect is it, unfortunately, feels a little gimmicky. Where Crash, some would argue, trivialized race relations in the City of Angles, Disconnect simplifies the ills of the internet. Crash’s payoff was heavy handed, but it worked for many. In this film -- in hindsight -- the audience could feel a bit ripped off.
What Disconnect does do quite well is present a cohesive message. From its title, through what the viewer experiences through its storyline, the lessons are crystal clear. One should enjoy the warm-blooded people around us and use the internet as a tool… not as a crutch for societal connections.
The ensemble is perfectly cast. It is a joy to see Jason Bateman in a role that is purely dramatic, yet can still use his sarcastic wit for a few break-the-tension laughs. Davis is her usual dynamic self, but the real surprise here comes from the Patton and Skarsgard portion of the film.
Patton is a lost soul and her onscreen husband is too wandering through life aimlessly, but in a much more flatlined way. Skarsgard loses himself in the role and it's unlike anything we’ve seen him in before. And he has a partner onscreen in Patton who shows depth of range that too has not been seen prior.
For the cast’s performances, the timeliness of the story and its moral, our Disconnect review can report there is enough here to connect to. But not quite enough to forge a full connection.