"Disconnect" is gripping. Three stories threaded together to create a cautionary tale that is relentlessly engaging, unyieldingly in composition and uncomfortably familiar.
The inherent contradiction of our electronic age, where the neon glow of small and large screens defines us, where we embrace the illusion that truncated messages mean we have made a connection, is that our contemporary isolation may not be ameliorated but has simply taken on a different form.
"Disconnect" reminds us that there can be a dark side to these ubiquitous, magical tools of communication and purveyors of information. For all of their immediacy and simulation of interaction they can also serve as distractions from that sense of alienation and isolation that continue to haunt the modern age.
The Great Gatsby
The film is composed of three vignettes, each equally absorbing. One focuses on a stable of underage teens who are performers of pornography on a pay-per-view website. A local TV reporter, Nina (Andrea Risenborough), seeks out one of the performers, Kyle (Max Theriot), and wants to take his story public — runaway kids being exploited by predators.
A suburban, upper-middle-class family: mom and dad (Hope Davis and Jason Bateman), two teens, all busy, all moving in their own worlds, palmed iPhones ever at the ready, their detachment from one another palpable. Their son Ben, (Jonah Bob), high school sophomore, achingly alone, is lost in a mumbling silence that his parents seem unable to penetrate, turning instead to those hours spent with his computer and his music. For all of his techie sophistication, a child of the new age, Ben is also profoundly naïve, unaware of and unprepared for the cruelty of his peers, a cruelty that has devastating consequences.
And a couple (Paula Patton and Alexander Sarsgard) who have recently lost an infant and are in retreat from one another, their grief and profound loss a shroud over their relationship. They turn for solace and distraction to the Internet. Cindy looks for support in chat rooms. Husband Derek turns to online gambling with unintended consequences. Both feel estranged and seemingly helpless to find their way back to one another.
The Internet, with all of its connectivity, is a cornucopia of possibilities. But it also can sow the seeds of personal destruction, though it may seem, at least initially, benign.
"Disconnect" immediately creates an ominous tone as each story grows more complex, each fraught with possible disaster. There is an absorbing simultaneity to the vignettes, as if they are merging, only to veer off in a different direction, which only enhances the effect of this suspenseful and emotive film.
"The Great Gatsby"
F. Scott Fitgerald published "The Great Gatsby" in 1925 to mixed, even lackluster reviews, never giving the author the approbation he so desperately sought. Alcoholic, insecure, hoping to find redemption in Hollywood as a screenwriter, he died at the age of 44.
It was left to succeeding generations to discover in this slim, compelling novel of lyrical prose — today regarded as one of the finest works of literature of the 20th century — an unyielding truth.
For filmmakers, however, bringing the subtleties and nuances of "Gatsby" to the screen has been elusive, if not seemingly impossible. Though the story is set in the Jazz Age, a time of determined hedonism, when all restraint seemed to fall away, the essence of the novel lies elsewhere.
Yet what illuminates Australian director Baz Luhrman's film "The Great Gatsby," to its detriment, is the shimmering glitz and lavishness of the period (it's shot, inexplicably, in 3D), the soundtrack contemporary (Jay-Z), at times jarring, diminishing what is essentially an elegant, universal story.
What is not revealed in the film is that Fitzgerald — for all of his wish to critique a period of decadence, embraced by both the nouveau riche and the old money set — knew that, in the words of Thomas Wolfe, "You can't go home again." What once was can never be again.
Gatsby rejects this truth at his own peril, desperate to recapture a memory viewed through a distorted prism of time and fantasy.
Therein resides the essence of the film and all the sybaritic kitsch and confetti-drenched glow are simply distractions.