By Jonathan Kellam
Directed by Henry Alex Rubin
★★★ out of ★★★★
Jason Bateman – Rich Boyd
Andrea Riseborough – Nina Dunham
Max Thieriot – Kyle
Alexander Skarsgård – Derek Hull
Paula Patton – Cindy Hull
Hope Davis – Lydia Boyd
Disconnect is one of those movies with multiple storylines that occasionally intersect. After 2004’s Crash, this type of narrative has become increasingly popular and in most cases it weakens the film by overcrowding the cast and neutralizing any kind of suspense or character attachment. It does work sometimes; I love Crash and it actually works okay in this. Disconnect focuses on several people who are all interconnected by foolish things they’ve done on the internet that have now gotten them into trouble. One couple has had their identity stolen and their bank accounts subsequently drained, a reporter gets a little too close to a source while covering a story about webcam models, and two families are thrown into disarray after a prank involving a fake Facebook profile goes terribly wrong. In case you haven’t figured it out, this is not exactly an uplifting movie.
The moral of the story is that we are spending so much time on our gadgets that our relationships with those closest to us are being dissolved. The moral should have simply been: don’t do stupid stuff on the internet. However, while writing this, I realize that is perhaps easier said than done. After all, how many websites have you entered your credit card information into? Have you personally met every single friend on your Facebook page? When is the last time you changed the password to your email account? There are things we can all probably do to increase our online security and I suppose this movie, if nothing else, serves as an effective alarm. Otherwise the acting is mostly good, the plotlines are intriguing, and the characters are well written. Too often in movies are characters purely good or purely evil. In this they are generally good, but flawed, people who have made mistakes and have not been especially responsible in fixing them. Some of the stories end up with relatively happy endings, others do not. I’ll avoid spoilers, but I will say that I was unfulfilled by these endings. Also, the story involving the couple with the stolen identity took a strange and unnecessary turn and I’m convinced it was just because the movie felt obligated to have a shootout. I’m betting they show part of that scene in the trailer to appeal to the action movie crowd.
Despite arguably being the most prominent character, Jason Bateman’s Rich Boyd was actually the flattest. Fortunately, to make up for the lack of depth, Bateman gives one of the best performances I’ve seen him in. The best talent in this, however, was Andrea Riseborough as the ambitious, yet reckless reporter Nina Dunham. Nina is the most realistic character in the film in that she has a complete range of emotions. Riseborough takes her character off the pages of a screenplay and makes her a living, breathing person. She portrays Nina as ambitious, deceitful, amatory, curious, and compassionate at different points in the film and it is rare to see an actor or actress maneuver so effortlessly through these complex emotions and attitudes. The second best performance was probably that of Paula Patton, the better half of the couple whose bank accounts are drained. She effectively portrays a grieving mother who almost seems a little relieved at she and her husband’s current crisis, as it has actually forced them into conversation with each other. Max Thieriot is effective in the unconventional role of a webcam model who performs sexual acts for money; it’s roles like these that make or break a career.
Disconnect is a good, thought-provoking movie. It isn’t great, though. The dialogue could have used some polishing and one of the plotlines just veered a little too far outside the realm of reality. However, it’s priceless as an educational film to show to that friend or family member you’re pretty sure is irresponsible in their online actions.