Troubled lives on dark, merging paths
Disconnect is an Eleanor Rigby movie. Look at all the lonely people.
A Crash for the Internet age, Alex Henry Rubin's topical opus swoops down like an alien spaceship to investigate a disparate group of Earthlings living in close proximity in the suburbs of New York City. There are Cindy and Derek Hull (Paula Patton and Alexander Skarsgård), a couple whose marriage turned cold and empty after they lost their baby. A Marine veteran, he doesn't want to talk. She turns to the chatrooms, grieving all over her computer screen.
There is the Boyd family: Rich (Jason Bateman), the workaholic father; Lydia (Hope Davis), the mother; a daughter (Haley Ramm) caught up in her high school world; and a moody, withdrawn son, Ben (Jonah Bobo). He composes music on his keyboard, and when he's friended on Facebook by a beautiful girl (you can see her profile picture), he's suddenly excited, elated. Ben doesn't know the ensuing e-mails and texts are actually the work of two snickering pranksters in his school, who watch Ben's face from across the cafeteria as they send him seductive missives, supposedly from his new e-pal. When he finally discovers the deception, the results are catastrophic.
Not far away, Kyle (Max Thieriot) works in a house filled with fellow teens - boys and girls, runaways - who service customers on a sex site. He fixes his gaze on the webcam, greets his clients, and asks what turns them on, happy to oblige. Nina Dunham (Andrea Riseborough), a local TV news reporter, thinks Kyle would make a good story. She promises anonymity if he will go on camera (voice disguised, face in shadows) to talk about his job. He does. The results are catastrophic.
Throw in a private investigator and single father (Frank Grillo) whose specialty is cybercrime, and an elaborate identity-theft subplot that turns Cindy and Derek into vengeful stalkers, and make sure all of the paths cross in dark and fateful ways.
Rubin, the award-winning documentary filmmaker of Murderball, working with a script by Andrew Stern, is good with the details, and he gets strong performances from his cast in this, his debut feature. And certainly, cybersex, cyberbullying, and identity theft are issues of the moment. So, too, is social media.
But what's this? All those tweets, chats, and IMs may be making us more isolated, more alone, not bringing us together? Shocker!
Like the Oscar-winning best picture Crash, which circled around a bunch of unhappy Los Angelenos grappling with issues of race and violence, alienation and despair, Disconnect reaches a crescendo of impossible bummer drama.
In slow motion, no less.