The title Disconnect refers to the film’s thematic intent of provoking the pitfalls of the modern age: people are simply more content within the confines of contemporary gadgetry rather than seeking a fulfilling human relationship. Unfortunately, disconnect would aptly describe the film’s deployment of various narrative thread. From cyber-bullying, distanced familial bonds between father and son, webcam exploitation, and marital discontent amidst an identity theft, Disconnect loosely unites its big ideas under a vague warning on the problems of an increasingly technological world. While Disconnect may lack narrative finesse and will succumb to a cliché (and just silly) dramatic moment of self-discovery, the film is anchored by vivid visual cornerstones, nimble direction, and a strong ensemble cast.
Henry Alex Rubin opens his film with a particularly nifty sequence that sees a young man on a webcam perplexed by an exchange where a woman requests to chat rather than seeing him jerk off. Crisply edited, it’s the sort of scene that recalls the opening of Requiem for a Dream - an explicit sense of discomfort is injected into the film’s worldview through this delightfully wicked sequence. The film continues on with this sense of discomfort as its various narrative pieces weave in and out of each other. Disconnect is not a film particularly concerned with achieving profundity through its many characters interacting, but rather addresses each vignette on its own terms. The problem with this approach is that Andrew Stern’s screenplay aims for the obvious and structures the film with the intent of developing one unified emotional crescendo. The whole venture feels too artificial and rejects the formal integrity that Disconnect showed in its first act – ascribing to formula and cliché over anything else.
Stern’s screenplay attempts to subvert expectations by readjusting the gender dichotomy of its characters plights. Reflective of the film, it works to start but flounders as the bigger amps the emotional stakes. It’s as if the film buckles under the weight of its various ideas, incapable of capturing powerful sense of vitality it sprints to at the start. In spite of its problematic screenplay, there’s some serious heft to the formal presentation of Disconnect. Visually, it’s a lush exercise, capturing a sense of dreariness and desperation in the character’s environments. Coupled with sharp editing and impressive compositions, Disconnect aspires for something greater. And with a cast of incredible character actors (including Jason Bateman’s best performance to date) Disconnect positions itself as more evocative than its uneven screenplay attempts to be.