‘Disconnect’ — three interconnected story lines about modern disconnects

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

If “Disconnect” had a subtitle, it would be “The Techno-Phobe’s Nightmare.”

Here is every sin of the Internet any of us Old Schoolers or merely tech-impaired ever dreamed of.

Identity theft? Check.

The perils of computer porn? Check.

The Catfish effect whereby someone poses as someone else? Check.

“Disconnect” abounds in digital dangers, some deadlier than others, but none of them much fun.

The title is meant to be taken as both verb and noun. The disconnect between people when we no longer talk, just text. The disconnect between the real world and the world on-line. The emotional disconnect engendered by disembodied texts, emails, etc.

Finally, there’s our seeming inability to disconnect.  Who could’ve imagined, just a few years ago, a family dinner with everyone’s head buried in their cell phone?

Writer Andrew Stern and director Henry-Alex Rubin take their cues — and something of the same failing — from the Oscar-winning “Crash.” Here again are separate Tales of the City, ever so slightly interconnected and — as detractors of “Crash” would say — rather too neatly worked out.

I had no problem with “Crash’s” semi-schematic formula. I have no problem with “Disconnect’s” either.  But there are some who did — and will.  You are forewarned.

Storyline Number 1 posits a sexy kid (Max Thierot) with a real talent for on-camera titillation. He connects with a lonely-ish reporter (Andrea Riseborough) who’s not only turned on by him (though she doesn’t like to think so), but also believes she can turn his story into an Emmy-winning bit of investigative journalism.

In the second plot, a couple (Alexander Skarsgard and Paula Patton) already somewhat unhinged by the death of their child find themselves the victims of an on-line thief who turns their credit upside down and is steadily draining their bank account.

The most predictable yet, most heartbreaking segment concerns an alienated teen lured into an on-line relationship by two classmates. They barely know him, but with a teenager’s primal instinct to prey upon the weak, they connect with their victim by posing as a pretty cool, certainly pretty teenage girl.

Facebook, chat rooms, gambling sites — these are the new dark wood through which the innocent wander. Here lurks a cyberbully. There a con artist.  Up ahead, a delicious-looking Gingerbread House that entices, then entraps.

To millenials, this may be as old hat as “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” seemed to young liberals in 1967. How could anyone NOT know to be nice to Sidney Poitier, we wondered. Especially if you’re Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

Still, what remains is human frailty. The hurdles are different, but the problem is the same.  When do you trust? When do you distrust? Where do the new and the old intersect…and what, exactly, is the nature of that connection?

The social network is indeed a net — and nets aren’t usually good news, unless they’re on tennis courts (and even then…)

Google/trick me once, shame on you. Google/trick me twice, shame on…

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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