Friday, November 29, 2013
Technology is the Ultimate Drug: Disconnect
Disconnect (2012) / US / Directed by Henry Alex Rubin / Written by Andrew Stern / Starring Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, Frank Grillo, Paula Patton, Alexander Skarsgard, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Nyqvist, Max Thieriot, Jonah Bobo / 115 mins
I've always felt like films about technology don't really get it. There's the films that imagine the way that technology will be in 10, 20, 30 odd years. But the films that try to capture technology now...it is a tricky tightrope these films are walking. The technology of now is not always going to be the zeitgeist. A film made in 2011 isn't going to be relevant in 2012. Plus, technology is such an interior world, making it difficult for a filmmaker to show its effect on the exterior.
However, Disconnect is a film that may become irrelevant and dated as early as next year in terms of the technology it is showing, but its overall message should keep people wary for years to come.
Perhaps that is because the film doesn't try to tackle a singular story and ask all of the reasons why our lives are taken over by Facebook. We have three stories: one of cyber bullying, one of a journalist making a story out of someone who makes a living by performing on an adult only website, one of a trust broken by scamming over a chatroom. All of these stories are connected by the major role that technology plays in their crises, all of the characters involved feel a certain amount of disconnect in their real lives. Sound a bit heavy-handed? Sure, it doesn't really show the perks of our internet world bringing a whole lot of people together (I'm talking about you, movie blogging world). Yes, perhaps the film does reach a bit too far in trying to show the deep, dark dangers of digital dictatorship, but boy, does this film pack one hell of a punch.
As is often the problem with multi-plotted films, some plots play off better than others - or is it just the way different people connect with different stories? The strongest is undeniably the cyber bullying story, since whenever technology and it's dangers are mentioned, cyber bullying is always the first thing that crops up. The way this particular story is treated is almost perfect. At the centre is Ben Boyd (Jonah Bobo - a far cry from the lovesick kid he was in Crazy Stupid Love), a boy who is targeted by a couple of bullies who assume the identity of a girl who is supposedly interested in Ben. This is the true danger of the internet - how keyboard warriors are enabled to feign genuineness and gain trust by a few typed words. The keyboard gives people so much power, just as alcohol gives people liquid confidence. All I can say after seeing this story play out on screen is thank goodness NZ has introduced new cyber bullying laws with very real consequences, because this is the real danger of our society.
The other two stories in the film come off as a bit less compared to this story, but if they falter, they have great actors lifting them up. The story involving ambitious journalist Nina Dunham (Andrea Riseborough) does have some interesting things to say about the seedier corners of the internet and also internet trust versus real life trust, but it ultimately has nowhere to go. That's no matter, though. Andrea Riseborough, once again, proves her weight in gold with another great performance in her career trajectory. Next to Jessica Chastain, she has one of the most alive and glowing filmographies in terms of range, and this may be her most different turn yet. The other story, involving a couple played by Alexander Skarsgard and Paula Patton isn't given as much weight as the other two stories, but probably has the most valuable pay off in terms of the film's message of disconnect.
All in all, this film does seem to 'get' it. Unfortunately, like David Schwimmer's Trust a couple of years back, a film that focuses on the effects rather than the zeitgeist of the burgeoning technology phenomenon, Disconnect has slipped mostly under the radar. Bit of a shame, really, when these films show us important lessons that young people, in particular, just aren't shown enough.
How I felt about this one: