Disconnect Plays on a Compendium of Contemporary Fears


Identity theft! Cyber bullying! Runaway teens doing lurid cam shows! This ambitious, multi-storied, state-of-us-all ensemble drama plumbs our fears of the plugged-in now more stridently than local news in TV sweeps. While well-crafted and at times moving, screenwriter Andrew Stern’s cautionary tales can’t help but feel behind the curve, the news they’re so urgently sharing already fully absorbed by the culture. They still build some power, especially the central story of a misfit teen (Jonah Bobo) getting catfished by a couple of bullies—and then the inevitable shame of a 15-year-old’s nude pix getting shared all over his high school. With tenderness and economy, Stern and director Henry-Alex Rubin humanize all parties, especially the bullies and the father of the poor, pranked kid; this story accumulates serious weight and vitality. That dad is played by Jason Bateman, who proves adept at drama, although it’s little surprise when this distracted, suit-and-tie middle-management type winds up in a hopeless brawl on a suburban lawn, as that’s in the cards for all Jason Bateman characters. A less involving thread involves TV news reporter (Andrea Riseborough) getting too close to a male runaway (Max Thieriot) who masturbates on webcam. Then there’s the long-soured married couple whose accounts get drained via the usual cyber-pilferers—this family seems to have the same do-nothing, plot-advancing credit card company Bateman had in Identity Thief. That said, one of their moments resonates: husband and wife (Paula Patton and Alexander Skarsgård), each with the other’s Internet history laid bare, finally coming to see each other. Disconnect might play better a decade from now, when it’s more clearly a compendium of contemporary fears rather than some dire expression of them.