I missed Henry Alex Rubin‘s Disconnect (LD, 4.12) in Toronto, but I finally saw it last night and it’s my idea of a 90% wowser. Except for a questionable slow-mo moment at the very end this is a grade-A ensemble drama that ranks right up there with Amores perros, Traffic and Short Cuts. Seriously. I’d read about the standing ovation in Venice but the plot summaries put me off and I was afraid it might be another Crash of some kind, but it’s much, much better than I expected. It’s certainly among 2013’s best so far.
There are 40 or 50 ways this movie could have blown it or gotten it wrong in some way, and time after time it gets it right. I was sitting there in my seat going “okay, that worked…that was good…no problem with that one…yup, that was good…solid delivery”…and it just kept going like that. Don’t listen to Variety‘s Guy Lodge — he was in a pissy mood or something. I realize this is a social-concern drama about everyone being out of touch with themselves and those closest to them due to cyber absorption and yaddah yaddah, and I know that sounds like a bit of a groaner but it’s not, trust me.
Disconnect works because it delivers in the writing, direction and acting. Andrew Stern‘s screenplay feels credible and compelling and is very finely threaded, always pushed along by believable turns and real-seeming characters behaving in what they believe are their best interests. Rubin’s direction is unforced naturalism par excellence, and the result is a story that always feel right and steady-on-the-tracks — nothing ever feels like a stretch (except perhaps that one moment at the very end when slow-mo kicks in). And the performances are honestly inhabited and true-feeling and just about perfectly rendered.
Jason Bateman is so good as a somewhat distracted and over-worked but essentially decent dad that he is hereby forgiven for having costarred in Identity Thief and as far as I’m concerned has earned himself a “get out of jail” pass for the next two or three years. Also planted and persuasive are Andrea Riseborough as a go-getter TV news reporter, Max Thieriot as a kid who performs on a sex website, Frank Grillo as an ex-cop who works as a cyber security expert, Colin Ford as a kid who, along with a heartless pal, deceives and humiliates a fellow student, Paula Patton and Alexander Skarsgard as marrieds coping with the death of a child but more precisely identity and financial theft, fashion tycoon Marc Jacobs as a sex-site exploiter, Hope Davis as his Bateman’s wife and the mother of Ford’s victim and so on.
I have to finish a couple of things and then shower and get down to a Disconnect junket press conference at 1 pm, but I want to make clear the things that moved Arianna Huffington to write this 3.26 praise piece aren’t the same things that got to me. Yes, our social behavior has changed over the last decade with everyone texting and emailing and not really paying attention to the organic with perhaps some of us not nurturing family relationships the way we should, but what matters to me are believable characters and motivations, straight-sounding dialogue and performances that feel right and un-actorly.
I guess what I’m really saying is that I’m probably one of the most cyber-absorbed people in the planet right now and this isn’t going to change. Constant writing and texting and checking Twitter and whatnot is my life and my vitality and my security. And I love it. I’m happier now than I was in the print days, that’s for sure. Give me more of this, and please let me just cruise along like this until I die of a heart attack on a street corner in Montmartre while clutching a Bluray of a 1.37 version of Shane. When I’m 88 years old or something. Or 98.
Huffington’s synopsis is well written: “Disconnect interweaves three stories, each involving characters whose lives have reached a crisis exacerbated by their dependence on technology at the expense of real human connection. There’s a couple that has recently lost a baby. Instead of grieving together, they turn away from each other and lose themselves in online distractions. There are two boys who use the power of social media to take advantage of another boy’s loneliness and isolation — itself partly caused by his father’s obsession with work and email. And there’s a woman reporter who becomes involved with a 18-year-old webcam porn performer who lives in a house run by a porn kingpin, played by Jacobs.”
I’ll have more to say about this as the release date approaches. I can only reiterate this is one of those films you might glance at from a distance and say to yourself “okay, maybe Netflix” but it’s much better than that — definitely an exception to the rule.