"Disconnect": The Online World is Still a Dangerous Place

Director Henry Alex Rubin has only helmed documentaries before Disconnect, so it seems fair to cut him some slack for dramatic creakiness. Still, after warming up with facts, you'd think the guy would make a higher priority of truthfulness. Rather late to the table with its hand-wringing about the Online Way We Live Now, Rubin's film, from a didactic script by Andrew Stern, wrangles Facebook bullying, credit fraud, and underage porn into an issue-driven patchwork of lives at once frayed and braided. Evidently it yearns to be something like the Crash of its day — that is, the Paul Haggis Crash, not the David Cronenberg one — and accordingly is very solemn and ponderous. The arc of this moralizing universe is long, and it bends toward pseudo-tragic catharsis: A distracted dad (Jason Bateman) strikes up a yearning instant-message rapport with the stealth tormentor (Colin Ford) of his loner son (Jonah Bobo); a young husband and wife (Paula Patton, Alexander Skarsgard) fail to cope with losing both their child and their financial security; a TV reporter (Andrea Riseborough) gets too deep into her story about an online rentboy (Max Thieriot). Truncated supporting parts for Frank Grillo and Hope Davis seem disproportionate to their gifts, but it is a nice touch to have fashion designer Marc Jacobs play a seedy pimp. Too diluted by its fussy, phony comprehensiveness, the case being made here just doesn't seem credible: How can a movie about what the Internet does to us be so devoid of spontaneity?

 
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