Movie Review: 'Disconnect' -- 3 stars
Directed by Henry Alex Rubin
Starring Jason Bateman, Andrea Riseborough, Alexander Skarsgård, Paula Patton
Playing at Lincoln Square and Union Square
"Disconnect" isn't the first movie to consider the downside of the digital age, to explore the way our increasing reliance on technology has come to replace genuine human connections. But director Henry Alex Rubin, working with a strong cast and a well-crafted Andrew Stern script, has woven an effective tapestry of modern alienation.
This is one of those ensemble pieces with interlocking stories linked by shared themes: Characters who are vulnerable to technological manipulations because they don't talk to each other and parental figures who don't understand their children.
We are given a lawyer (Jason Bateman) who is caught unaware when his son (Jonah Bobo) experiences a serious trauma, a reporter (Andrea Riseborough) who manipulates a webcam model (Max Thieriot) for a broadcast piece, a couple (Alexander Skarsgård, Paula Patton) coping with a terrible loss and a distant father (Frank Grillo) who treats his lonely son (Colin Ford) with contempt.
A lesser movie would strain to link these storylines together, but here the connections are secondary because each individual narrative works on a standalone basis. The film is somber, rendered in muted tones, but it's hardly a work of digitized miserablism either. Instead, Rubin and Stern craft four convincing stories centered on insecurity and despair that are elevated by uniformly terrific acting and a refusal to give in to condescending melodramatic impulses.
Certain parts of "Disconnect," such as pop-ups of Facebook and chat room conversations, feel like the dated relics of earlier cyber age movies. The script has its share of convoluted details and the film steps wrong when Rubin opts for the occasional directorial flourish, such as an extreme slow-motion montage of violence.
But straightforward, quality drama, compelling content rendered without some sort of marketing gimmick (superheroes, action scenes etc.), is fast becoming an endangered species in Hollywood. It should be celebrated when it's found.