Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Disconnect [A Fat Jesus Movie Review]

A thriller is a genre you really have to gear yourself up for when you go into a given movie. Comedies are lighthearted, action movies let your turn your brain off, while horror heightens your senses. With thrillers, you have to be ready to think, but also gear up that anticipation, like with horror. Disconnect is almost a modern day cautionary anthology of sorts. Unlike other anthologies, and what a lot of people are comparing this to, Crash, it really fits that modern audience. We all have computers, internet access, tablets, cell phones. We're all wired into society in this day and age. Led by Jason Bateman, Alexander Skarsgård and Max Thieriot, Disconnect tells three separate (yet intertwined) stories, of individuals and families, who are directly impacted and affected by all the negative technology can bring.

Disconnect follows the stories and interactions of three separate groups of people, two being families. We start with an up and coming reporter, Nina Dunham (Andrea Riseborough), who finds an underage chatroom worker, Kyle (Max Thieriot). Nina begins to befriend Kyle, and upon telling him that she wants to do a story on him, he agrees. The story is a huge hit, but Nina may have to break promises she told Kyle, as the FBI wants to expose him and his workmates. Two boys and friends, Jason Dixon (Colin Ford) and Frye (Aviad Bernstein), play a prank on their classmate Ben Boyd (Jonah Bobo). Ben sends a sexual picture to a fake girl, who is really Jason and Frye, and they pass it around the school. Later that week, Ben attempts suicide by hanging himself in his room, to be saved by his sister, Abby Boyd (Haley Ramm), and her friend. Ben is now in a coma, and his father Rich Boyd (Jason Bateman), a successful lawyer, is distraught and is determined to find out why all this has happened. A young couple, Cindy and Derek Hull (Paula Patton and Alexander Skarsgård), have recently lost their child. Cindy turns to online message boards, to vent about her depression and befriends someone. Derek isn't much better as he has an online gambling addiction. One night, as Derek is away on a business trip, they find out that all of their money has been stolen. They hire a private detective Mike Dixon (Frank Grillo), Jason's father, to help them recover the money. They soon discover who they think did this to them and become vigilantes of sorts trying to hunt him down themselves. All these stories are weaved into each other in some form or way, as we see a darker side of the technology we all use everyday. 

I highly enjoyed this movie, and I'm glad I finally got to see it earlier this month, as I'd been waiting to see it for the majority of the year. I love thrillers and movies that make you think a little more than your average comedy or action flick. This is a movie that is written quite well and it shows. The thing that really shines about this are the characters. They feel real, no matter the age or circumstance that they're in. The fearful and revenge minded parents who only want to see their son make it through. The earnest care that a newswoman begins to have for an underage boy that may not be doing what's best for his life. The couple, who are forced to the end of their ropes unexpectedly, still reeling from a loss, reconnecting over the course of their investigation. Everything about the characters, was really well done. Despite a few miscues, it was a pleasure to watch them all grow throughout this film. This also means that the acting, was top notch. I mentioned these three in my opening, but I thoroughly enjoyed Jason Bateman, Alexander Skarsgård and Max Thieriot in this. This is not to be out shined by the supporting roles. Hope Davis, Andrea Riseborough, Paula Patton and Frank Grillo, all complimented everyone well. Jason Bateman shined and it was great to see him show off his acting chops, as he does have them. His scenes with Hope Davis were good, and one in particular with Frank Grillo was fantastic. Alexander Skarsgård took the lead in his role, and along side Paula Patton, gave the great performance of a couple who is hanging on by a thread. Finally Max Thieriot and Andera Riseborough are great. They had the on-screen chemistry to pull off the fun, the good and the bad that happened between them. Also all the kids in this, Colin Ford, Aviad Bernstein, Jonah Bobo and Haley Ramm, were pretty good. I'm usually hesitant to point out kid's performances, but a good portion of this movie (and story) would've been garbage, had the younger actors not done well.

Speaking of the story, it was pretty solid, aided by everything acting and character-wise mentioned above, it was highly engaging. It's the kind of movie that blended between the stories pretty well. It keeps, in the back of your mind, that there are two other stories going on. It keeps you wondering and thinking about what's going to happen in them, while you focus on what's actually going on screen. That may seem a little confusing, but for me, it was helped by the act there's a lot of points in the film, where you can just digest all that happening or just happened. The one glaring problem with the story though is that it feels more like a warning, than a film. Sure the story is there, and all the elements that go with it, but overall, for me, it still felt like a cautionary tale. I'd have liked it a ton more if it didn't have those "Look out, this could easily happen to you!" undertones. I think in this day and age, even the least tech-literate of us out there, know about the underbelly of the internet, identity theft and cyber-bullying. So for me, this takes what I already try to avoid, and magnifies it to the point where I'm annoyed by it. Sure the message is good, there's no denying that, but this is a film, not a PSA. I just wish it didn't scream "DON'T DO THIS" to me, like I really felt it did. I will say though that the filming style was alright too, nothing bad, but again, everything felt authentic. Kids hanging out in the basement, a den of people essentially selling themselves in chat rooms, or even the homes, school or news station the people go to all feel like it belongs. The music was pretty good throughout as well, and I'm always happy went a soundtrack or score doesn't annoy me. The dialogue was pretty great as well. The writing especially for Max Thieriot's character Kyle, Jason Bateman's as Rich and Paula Patton as Cindy were highlights for me.

This is not a movie for the faint of heart. See? Now I'm being cautionary. Despite the underlying tones of caution, Disconnect deals with a ton of heavy subject matter. At nearly two hours this is a movie you need to commit yourselves to. While it never feels long, it's a movie best fit to submerse yourself in. The story is pretty solid, but the characters and performances are what you're really gonna key in on with his. I liked this movie a lot, and it's one of the best that I've seen all year. If you can get past the problems with the overall message being projected at you, you have a great group of stories played out by a great cast of characters. 

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