Had "Connected" simply followed the logical trajectory of its amusing opening, in which director Tiffany Shlain recalls a compulsive need to check her email during lunch with an old friend, her film might have proven a vivid and rollicking look at society's out-of-control attachment to current technology.
Instead, Webby Awards founder Shlain conflates the hazy theory of "connectedness versus interconnectedness" with a highly personal tale of her beloved father, Leonard, a scholarly surgeon and bestselling author who fought brain cancer, and how that struggle — along with the filmmaker's concurrent, risky pregnancy — came to exemplify how we are all linked in the 21st century. The result is both heady and unconvincing.
Fast-paced and slickly edited, the movie is also so dizzyingly jammed with animated and archival imagery — both illustrative and symbolic — that it often feels more like a fancy art project than a feature documentary (Shlain coyly dubs the film an "autoblogography"). Shlain's and Peter Coyote's alternating narration further densifies matters.
Aided by evocative home movie clips and warm footage of Leonard Shlain's latter days, the film ultimately works best as a daughter's heartfelt tribute to an enormously devoted and emotionally generous parent. Unfortunately, that's just not enough to, well, connect us to the bigger picture.
"Connected." MPAA Rating: PG for thematic material including images of nudity, drug use, war and smoking. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes. At the ArcLight, Hollywood.