It's tough enough to try and transition from making documentary films to feature narratives. The skeletal script structure is there, but the execution is obviously different. Nevertheless, documentary director Henry Alex Rubin decided to slightly leap away from his reality-based roots into a fictional story that still deals with realistic subject matter. We just wish the story didn't felt like another dramatized soap opera spread out into a feature length film.
"Disconnect" follows several people as they deal with the worst side of the digital age. One family is torn apart as an act of cyber bullying sends their only son to the hospital. A couple struggles to piece back together their marriage as they fall victim to identity theft, while a news reporter gets in too deep with the star of her latest story that she discovered online. It's all very juicy material, but it goes in a very predictable route as the story unfolds.
One of the biggest problems about "Disconnect" is how melodramatic they get with the three stories. Yes, we know that cyber bullying and identity theft can happen to anybody, and in some ways this movie serves it's purpose as cautionary tale. But it brings our characters continually into this worse case scenario that there literally is no end to. The movie in some ways is bleak, and for some reason it leaves the impression that if it could, it would end with bold text that says to contact said random company in order to prevent this from happening to your loved ones. It doesn't help that the characters are very one note, surface characters that don't have any complex personality in them. What they lack in personality the movie makes up for in multiplying their problems. Towards the end you just get tired of the obvious route they take with each situation and wish they would bring an end to it.
While it's a narrative, "Disconnect" very much feels like it could easily pass for a documentary film if we were unaware who these actors were. It feels like you're peeking into the lives of these people rather than following them side by side through their story. The cold aesthetic of the picture adds to the unnecessary need to make you feel detached from it all. We may be observers when it comes to these peoples' lives but it doesn't have to be placed that way.
At least most of the actors make due with what they were given, but nobody in particular stands out. Again, these characters are one dimensional at most, which means that the actors have very little to work with pertaining to filling up their character internally. You can see Alexander Skarsgård, Jason Bateman and company try their best to give more depth to a couple of the biggest players in this tragedy of sorts, but that's it. The rest of the performances are passable, but aren't particularly memorable. Everyone in the cast is at least sub-par, which isn't saying much.
What this story's striving to do most is strip away the newness of this digital age and showcase the real life terrors that happen to millions of people everyday. The need to let people of different ages be aware of the real life terrors that could befall upon them is understandable, but after a certain point it's as if they're beating you over the head with their message. In the end, "Disconnect" is decent at best with few scenes to help you remember the picture as time passes on.