The new film Disconnect is meant to be a cautionary tale.
So is this review.
A laughable collection of stories whose moral is no deeper than “The Internet is evil,” the film covers the same ground that films like Identity Thief and Bully, and TV shows like Catfish, already have. Not only does Disconnect add nothing new to the idea that you need to be skeptical when it comes to communicating with others online, it way overhypes the idea that there’s nothing good about the Internet, so you should stay far away.
Either the filmmakers — who include director Henry-Alex Rubin (the excellent documentary Murderball) — have been burned so badly by online relationships that they need to exact revenge, or they just don’t understand how the Internet works. My money’s on the latter.
If you care, here’s the gist: Disconnect starts with the story of a couple (Alexander Skarsgård and the lovely Paula Patton) who have drifted apart since the death of their newborn son. She’s found solace in a chat room for grieving parents, while he spends his time on an offshore gambling website. Then one day — uh oh! — their credit cards are shut off for insufficient funds and the two estranged spouses are forced to deal with the situation.
Cut to the seemingly happy family, headed up by Jason Bateman’s busy lawyer, who is so distracted by work that he doesn’t notice his son (Jonah Bobo, from Crazy Stupid Love) has become quite involved in an online relationship with an attractive female classmate. Except it’s not a girl, it’s two guys playing a joke on the kid. Suffice it to say, when the prank is revealed, the results are tragic.
Then there’s the reporter (Andrea Riseborough) who happens upon an online sex-chat site where runaway teens pleasure themselves on camera while others pay to watch. She falls for one of the kids (Max Theriot), convinces him to tell his story on TV, and, well, it’s comical how many ethical lines she crosses trying to save him.
Actually, comical is probably the nicest thing you can say about Disconnect. As is required in a film like this, the separate plot threads overlap, and each climaxes in a hysterically overwrought sequence that shows how bad situations can be made even worse.
If you’ve made it to the end without throwing in the towel, then you’re a more tolerant moviegoer than I am. Disconnect reveals itself early on as an overheated, overly melodramatic, alarmist film, and it’s never quite able to connect with moviegoers who are a bit more sophisticated about the ways of the web than the filmmakers clearly are.
Stay away from this one. It’s a waste of time and film.
I’m giving Disconnect a D.
Have you ever been burned by a connection you made online? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.