Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Disconnect [2012]

MPAA (R)  RogerEbert.com (4 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
RogerEbert.com (R. Roeper) review

Disconnect [2012] (directed by Henry Alex Rubin, screenplay by Andrew Stern) is a well structured if rather depressing tale involving three concurrent and (loosely) interrelated stories that, together, help express the complexities and potential pitfalls of the internet culture in which we live.  Viewers may find similarities in the structure/storytelling taking place in this film with that present in a similarly titled film Babel [2006].

In this film, Disconnect [2012], the three concurrent and loosely interrelated stories that play out are:

(1) A local television reporter, Nina Dunham (played by Andrea Riseborough), decides to do an exposé on the exploitation of minors by internet "cam sites."  To do so, she befriends, "Kyle" (played by Max Theriot) an underaged local male "cam model," who when she makes acquaintance with him (over the cam site) initially expects her to want him to "perform" for her but to his surprise finds that she just wants to talk to him.  Eventually, she convinces him to meet off-line and to do an interview (face blacked out, voice altered) for television, about his life and the exploitation of minors such as him by those who operate such "adult cam sites."  In the interview, he tells her that the younger the model looks the more money he/she makes, which is just "golden" for reporter Nina Dunham's exposé. 

But of course, even if Dunham wants to be helpful and arguably even wants to help "Kyle" get out of this way of life before he gets hurt, once Dunham's exposé is picked-up by CNN, making the "big time" ... the FBI comes-in asking questions and the ethics of what Nina Dunham had done to get the interview become murky indeed.  To avoid getting too much into "spoiler territory," consider simply that in order to be able to "make acquaintance" with "Kyle" to begin with, Nina had to PAY (the cam-site) for the opportunity to "chat" with him.  Now of course, she said that this is all that she did ... just talked to him.  BUT how could one possibly know that for sure (except take her word for it ...)?  And Kyle was, of course, a minor. The local TV station's lawyer, Rich Boyd (played by Jason Bateman) sensing potential trouble for the station immediately recommends to the station manager to suspend Nina pending the completion of the FBI's investigation.  For its part, the FBI wasn't going anywhere until Nina gave them information about "Kyle's" whereabouts so that they could try to shut that illegally operating website down... 

(2) Teenager Jason Dixon (played by Colin Ford) along with a skateboarding buddy and with a partly justified (and partly not...) "chip on his shoulder" decides that it'd be fun to create a fake profile (of a girl, of course) on a Facebook-like social media site to pick-on Ben Boyd (played by Jonah Bobo) a quiet, kinda nerdy classmate of theirs.  Ben swallows the bait, hook, line and sinker and Jason and his buddy have oodles of fun until the prank inevitably gets out of hand.  Ben's dad, the lawyer mentioned above, of course had no clue at all what was going on in Ben's life and indeed, had been initially happy that his quiet son was apparently finally "making friends ..."

(3) A still relatively young married couple, Cindy and Derek Hull (played by Paula Patton and Alexander Skarsgard) are grieving (not particularly well...) the tragic loss of their young son.  To cope Cindy had joined an online support group emptying her heart there.  Derek just kinda shuts down and spends at least a portion of his time when he's "out of town on business" (and with his wife not watching ...) playing online video blackjack in his hotel room.  Well, one evening Derek wishes to make an online purchase of $50 more dollars worth of chips and finds that the credit card was maxed-out.  What happened?  He calls his wife.  She didn't spend the money.  And though Derek had something of a gambling addiction (and had taken out, without telling his wife, a second mortgage on the house ...) STILL it didn't add up.  Someone had stolen their identity. 

When the bank proves that it doesn't really care whether or not their identity was stolen but simply interested in Cindy/Derek making their payments, the two call-in a local expert on internet fraud, a former cop, Mike Dixon (played by Frank Grillo) who had left the force after losin his wife, and yes was the father of teenager Jason above.  Mike goes through Cindy and Derek's receipts and internet records and shaking his head, tells them: "Look, I'm not a marriage counselor ..." and proceeds to explain to both of them that anyone of those "nice people" on the internet support group that Cindy participated in, let alone the "nice operators" of the gambling sites that Derek frequented could have pieced together the necessary information to steal their identities...

Anyway, all three of the stories are sad and yet I do believe that there is at least some redemption in a couple of them.  Together the three stories remind us that we do live in a "looking glass" and at least PARTLY FALLEN WORLD, where people are not always what they seem and, yes, fraud/corruption/sin occur.

All in all, this is not a bad film (not by a long shot) just not a particularly happy one, something that viewers should be aware of before seeing it.

So good job folks, even if you've succeeded in depressing me ;-)

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