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Review: August

The film depicts, sans nuance or insight, the collapse of a tech firm during the dot-com era.

1.5
August
Photo: First Look International

In 2001, the dot-com bubble—having been fueled by overvaluations of trendy web-based technology companies that often had no marketable commodity with which to generate concrete revenue—burst. That brief, familiar history lesson could be considered a major spoiler for August, a lackluster indie which depicts, sans nuance or insight, the collapse of one such failed firm. Landshark CEO Tom (Josh Hartnett) is an all-flash, no-substance archetype from the era, and in Austin Chick’s film he goes from being the toast of CNBC to just another loser ill-equipped for the business world’s harsh realities. A five-month-spanning jump cut from a raucous club shindig to his early-morning departure from a nightspot makes immediately clear that the party is coming to an end for Tom, and the ensuing narrative takes great pains to detail its hotshot protagonist’s fall from grace. The decision to not identify what Landshark actually does speak to the fact that, like so many of its ilk, it’s a company without an easily marketable product. Howard A. Rodman’s script, however, has nothing else to say about the decade’s early tech boom, depicting it as a fun, giddy ride driven by idea men with precious little notion how to make money from their daring concepts. Scored to layered electronica, August charts not only Tom’s professional plummet but also his personal problems with his programmer partner and brother, Joshua (Adam Scott), his idealistic parents (Rip Torn and Caroline Lagerfelt) and his former girlfriend, Sarrah (Naomie Harris). What these crumbling relationships reveal is that Tom is an arrogant, selfish blowhard whose life is propelled by a need to hear himself speak, an impression one gleans from his first on-screen appearance and is then dully reconfirmed over and over again. Hartnett does windbag cockiness well, yet the overriding conception of his character and the Dot Com phenom in general is so straightforward and unrevealing that his effort goes for naught, wasted by a film that can’t provide a single reason to care about its story.

Cast: Josh Hartnett, Naomie Harris, Adam Scott, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Andre Royo, Robin Tunney, Rip Torn, David Bowie Director: Austin Chick Screenwriter: Howard A. Rodman Distributor: First Look International Running Time: 88 min Rating: R Year: 2008 Buy: Video

“Tell the truth but tell it slant”
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