Disconnect (2013) (R)

This review contains SPOILERS!
In our age of instant communication, it's rare to see a movie like "Disconnect" which villain-izes the internet. It's a work that's hard to be mad at because I understand what it's trying to convey—that being said, it's also a film that doesn't portray any of its characters well.
We have three main story arcs—they cover a number of topics from cyber bullying to child pornography.
Before I get into the meat of the film, let me just say this: "Disconnect" is one of the most uncomfortable movies I've ever seen. For much of the film I was peering out through my fingers and the fabric of my shirt. It's awkward on a whole new level.
I see the film as having one protagonist—one character that really stands out among the throngs of other...his name is Ben Boyd. Though much of the screen time is eaten up with other people, watch him—it's his character that gives the film its weight.
We are deposited in several non-intertwining stories, which is courageous in its own way because you have to expect the audience to care. Heralded as "Crash" with the internet, "Disconnect" would be lucky to carry half the emotional impact that "Crash" did.
We have highschool—that baneful community where children go to get self-image problems—we have family, careers, fraud, sex, and high emotions.
There's a couple that has been cheated out of their money via the internet, a boy who is being manipulated by people he doesn't even know, and a woman who is trying to make a difference where a difference isn't needed.
The first story arc deals with the Dixons and the Boyds, whose lives will unintentionally brush up against each other. It's here where the movie talks about cyber bullying: a topic that is so tender and I think the film treated it crassly.
The second story arc centers is a reporter doing a story on underage and teen pornography performers. These scenes reflect the unfortunate truth about the web—sex is everywhere. It's handled well, though stereotypically.
The last story arc revolves around a couple who lose their money online. Yes, kids, you can lose your money online.
While the film doesn't come across as preachy and it's certainly very well-made, "Disconnect" left me with one big question: why?
The resolution isn't resolved, the characters are hollow, the film is one-sided, the drama is painful to watch—in essence, every aspect of the film is what makes it unsuccessful.
Perhaps I'm being too hard on the film—it wouldn't be the first time and won't be the last.
So let's look at what the film is trying to accomplish: if anything, it's simple stating that the internet is a place that should be treated with a little more respect and restraint. On that note: mission accomplished.
But did it take suicide, bullying, attempted murder, manipulation, stalking, and beatings to give us this thought? No, I would hope not...oh, wait....yes it did.
I really wanted to like this movie a lot, but it wrecked me. It's depressing, which could be a good thing. But it's depressing in all the wrong ways—while I don't often demand an optimistic side, one felt needed. The internet isn't this horrible place where bad guys go to creep on underage teens performing sex acts on the camera, which is what the film seems to imply. I'm not defending the web, but there is more to it than that.
No body has a happy ending in "Disconnect".
The cast is fairly well-rounded out, though I'm not going to name all of them because I'm feeling lazy. Let's just say this: the actors do a good job with what the film gives them.
By now you probably think I hated "Disconnect"; but not so. I see the movie it could have been, I see it's potential. It's a good idea and I think that more movies will be made like this.
But my problem is that it goes nowhere and I failed to engage with the characters. Difficult moments aren't given enough time and happy moments are given too much.
After watching the movie, I felt like shutting off my computer and going to hide in my room—which was probably the point of the film.
I realized that it's not about the characters—they are all relatively nice people—it's about the tool they use, i.e., the internet.
It's too easy to be sexual in front of a camera in your own home, too easy to be cruel to someone not sitting next to you, and too easy to take money from a faceless name.
It's a critique of something that we are going to be stuck with our whole lives, and I appreciate the thought.
In the end, they tried really hard; but "Disconnect" plays like a hot mess at times—overly emotional and contrived.

Score: 2 out of 4 stars

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