Connected opens with director Tiffany Shlain confessing to cell-phone addiction, a focus on herself that's indicative of this documentary, which concentrates as much on the filmmaker's own story—specifically, her surgeon/author father's battle with brain cancer and her simultaneous high-risk pregnancy—as on her main topic: the vital and positive ways in which people, cultures, and life are increasingly interconnected. Just as Shlain attempts to interpret human evolution through a strained and baffling analysis involving the differences between left-brain (i.e., male) and right-brain (i.e., female) thinking, she structures her own film through clumsy division, toggling between autobiographical segments (which she narrates) and historical ones (narrated by Peter Coyote). This conflation of the small and big picture, however, never properly meshes, since her personal tales fail to illuminate grander notions about interconnectivity. Utilizing an endless array of cutesy graphics, home movies, and archival B-roll footage and proffering a typical dose of activism-doc global-destruction fear, the director addresses scads of hot-button matters (overpopulation, the Internet, honeybees, war, media, Oxytocin) with a rapid-fire glibness that makes the intended associations among them seem feeble. Like Shlain's handwritten diagram in which lines twist and knot while linking various subjects, the film resembles not a coherent thesis but a tangle of semi-related ideas.
Shlain tries to get herself unplugged.
Opens at Varsity, Fri., Oct. 7. Rated PG. 80 minutes.