Saturday, May 18, 2013

Disconnect (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


"Disconnect" is the latest by Henry-Alex Rubin who helmed the cult documentary "Who is Henry Jaglom?" and co-directed the compelling "Murderball" an exposé on the world of wheelchair rugby. In this film, Rubin takes on the knot of cyber-bullying and glacial parenting using an interconnected story format as seen in Paul Haggis' "Crash" (2004) and Inarritu's "Babel" (2006) along with several others.

Jason Bateman (Identity Theft) plays Rich Boyd, a career-obsessed lawyer with a taciturn and nearly frozen son, Ben (Jonah Bobo). The son spends an inordinate amount of time in front of his computer composing eerie but sensitive melodies on the keyboard. One day Ben gets a message from an attractive looking girl who says she likes his music posted on Facebook. The pale and misunderstood Ben is smitten. There is only one problem. The valentine doesn't exist. She is created by two amoral teens, Frye (Aviad Bernstein) and Jason (Colin Ford).

These two smirksters get their other kicks from replacing cans of Gatorade with urine and then watching the pandemonium unfold.

Such charmers!

Another story involves a struggling couple who recently lost a son. Derek (Alexander Skarsgard) and Cindy (Paula Patton suddenly become victims of financial theft due to Cindy's chat room activity on an online support group.

A third story involves an ambitious newswoman (Andrea Riseborough) and her attraction to a young hustler (Max Thieriot).

Although the film wrings its hands quite a bit, sweating and suffering with nearly everyone pounding a table or going into a rage, crying "why why why!", it has some fine acting. Jason Bateman is solid and authentic as a self-centered dad, as is Jonah Bobo as the pale and wispy son. Max Thieriot also stands out as a devil may-care digital hunk.

Although no one is quite likable here and the karmic cause and effect is a bit too heavy with THE MESSAGE hitting us with a lead pipe,  the roles have enough pathos to keep you guessing. While it is true the moral quandaries presented, involving an uber-macho police dad and a couple who seethes with revenge are oft-seen, the performances do get under the skin.

Cyber-bullying alone is an important and emotional issue of our times and shouldn't be under-stressed. The kids' exchanges  are singularly excellent for their "as is" presentation.

My one slight reservation is the use of slow-motion which makes the end feel Tv-squared and sentimental.

Despite the melodramatic and unambiguous tone, "Disconnect" is a well-done addition to the ensemble cast and moral dilemma films of the early millennium, and it will certainly tease if not surprise.

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