Craig's First Take: "Disconnect"

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Strangers, neighbors and colleagues and their stories collide in this riveting dramatic thriller about ordinary people struggling to connect in today's wired world. Starring Jason Bateman, Paula Patton, Alexander Skarsgård, Frank Grillo, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Nyqvist & Max Thieriot.
5

I normally don’t do DVD reviews but got a strong urge from “Disconnect”, one heck of a powerful movie that has taken over my number 1 spot on the best of the year list. In a year where so many films have been forgotten while walking from the theater to the parking lot, this first scripted feature from Henry Alex Rubin (he made the great documentary “Murderball”) and writer Andrew Stern never hits a false note and its ambition is fascinating.

It’s about three interconnected stories, all having to do with the internet. A couple, Derek and Cindy (Alexander Skaarsgard, Paula Patton), have grown apart over the death of their son, forcing the wife into a relationship with an emotional friend online, who we later find out from an online detective (a great Frank Grillo, who we also find is a hard-ass father in another story). Paula Patton does a wonderful job of conveying the need for human connection that Derek is unable to provide, while Skaarsgard is very good playing a man unsure of how to move on. When the theft occurs, we wonder whether it will be the best (this finally brings them together at least) or the worst (they decide to take the law into their own hands) thing for their marriage.

The second story centers on Nina Dunham (Andrea Riseborough), a TV news reporter who wants to do a human interest piece about a sex cam worker named Kyle (Max Theirot), an 18 year old kid who was taken off the streets years ago and given room and board in a house with other runaways-all of which part of the online sex trade. Nina promises that his involvement will be kept confidential but when the FBI shows up after the story’s success, her promises to someone she sees as a friend are tested. Riseborough is perfect here and Theirot is charming as this online persona but compelling as someone with a painful past who sees this illegal activity as really the only real positive thing he has going for him.

The last story is probably the most compelling, about a high school loner named Ben (Jonah Bobo) who is the victim of a catfishing prank by two school bullies (Colin Ford, Aviad Bernstein). It doesn’t end well as these things often do, but it’s the way Ben’s father (a superbly moving, torn-up Jason Bateman in his first dramatic role) looks for answers and finds out all he never knew about his son and the way the cyberbullying, the pain caused on others, and the guilt that comes after becomes an intense form of therapy for one of the bullies (a troubled, relatable Colin Ford) makes this story one to look at very closely. Scenes where the Bateman character unknowingly instant messages with Ford’s bully couldn’t be written more on-point or portrayed so beautifully.

If this movie is anti-internet, I really didn’t see it that way. Instead it really looks at how we know it’s not safe to trust it, but how we wind up needing to trust it anyway; to help us vent the darkest part of ourselves, to find like-minded individuals, to find companionship, or to just feel like we have some kind of power that we can’t find in real life. “Disconnect” is brilliant in detailing why we end up feeling close to it, but powerful in portraying the thoughts and feelings of those so connected to fantasy because reality is too hardcore. There are no happy endings here, just ones where people have much to work through just to get back to a workable medium.

"Disconnect” wasn’t marketed well and didn’t get the theater count to be seen in many areas which is a shame because it’s a movie that should definitely be mentioned in Oscar conversation but more so, should have been seen. I like what I'm seeing off the film's imdb page though, many echo my same sentiments. I hope now that it’s on DVD, people take the time to look for it.