Movie Review: “Disconnect”

Webcams, Facebook and cybercrime lead to unforeseen consequences in this taut drama.

Spencer Doar

 

Where: Area theaters

Rated: R

Directed by: Henry Alex Rubin

Starring: Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Frank Grillo, Alexander Skarsgård

Runtime: 115 min.

Opens: Friday

 

If there’s one thing you leave the theater with after watching “Disconnect,” it’s the desire to rush home, update your virus protection and generally encrypt all facets of your digital life. If you don’t, you might end up as screwed as the characters in this film.

“Disconnect” follows three interweaving plotlines: A journalist gets in over her head while pursuing a story about youth webcam sex rings, two high schoolers cyberbully a fellow classmate and a couple’s marriage falls into disarray after the death of their infant.

The first of these is by far the most compelling in that it is the least predictable of the three — the fate of Kyle (the teen webcam star played so convincingly by Max Thieriot) and the investigative reporter (Andrea Riseborough), further complicated by their star-crossed, pseudo-lover tension, is entirely in doubt up until its conclusion.

Even then, the end of their story in the film merely marks the beginning of a personal odyssey for both of them. That applies to all of the characters.

While they are stumbling through their respected professional and emotional crises, the grieving married couple’s identity is stolen.

At this point, it bears mentioning that this ensemble cast is dead-on. It would be redundant to mention how good each and every character is — especially the numerous teenagers as those characters can be the most difficult to portray realistically.

Two of the conflicted teens in “Disconnect” find themselves creating a fake female Facebook profile in order to attract a social outcast, whose mother (Hope Davis) and lawyer father (Jason Bateman) are, whaddaya know, disconnected from his experiences.

When the two bullies disseminate a nude picture of the outcast, obtained through pretending to be the fake interested female, the outcast attempts suicide. It is that event that kicks the ball in motion for these three stories and begins their entanglement.

It may seem like the film’s construction has been done before, with its overlapping and intersecting storylines, but isn’t that what life is? A complicated Venn diagram where circles upon circles of people drift into and out of the lives of others?

But forget the inevitable analogies to “Crash” because dozens of films have been constructed in this fashion. Hell, “Pulp Fiction” used the same device.

You could argue that this makes the how-about-some-non-digital-interaction message banal — and it may be. However, even a tired trope has power when told in a compelling way. “Disconnect” succeeds in that emotional endeavor.

The film is firmly anchored in society’s reliance and obsession with the digital world, exploring how humanity is lost on the Interwebs.

Its overall strength lies in the commonness of the events. Who hasn’t had a human interaction interrupted by a message alert or ringtone followed by, “I gotta take this”?

The end is a realization not a resolution, which leaves a not-too-pleasant taste in your mouth — not because it’s bad, but because it forces you to think about how you live your own life.

“Disconnect” is best summed up by the words of the cyber detective, “If you’re going to [expletive] with someone, do it to their face.”

The ultimate irony is the moment the film ends, everyone in the theater hops on their respective smart technology…

 

Rating: Three out of four stars