Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Does anyone really pay attention to film reviews any more? How many of you out there have read a review of some movie and actually had it influence whether or not you went to see a particular film? I query you this because after seeing director Austin Chick’s film ‘August’ I read a couple different blurbs regarding the performance of the movies star Josh Hartnett. One dude I will loosely quote says Hartnett gives a ‘riveting high wire performance’ while another dude reports that Hartnett has the acting ability of ‘linoleum’. Well, which one is it? How can two people see the same movie and have two completely polar opposite opinions? It’s just something I find curious is all and as far as Hartnett’s acting ability goes from my vantage point, he seems okay to me. Why don’t we all try to find something we can all agree on, and that would be that actress Naomi Harris is hot as hell. Now that we’re all in agreement on that, shall we move on?

‘August’ is an examination of the Dot.Com bubble burst of the early part of the twentieth century centering around the internet company Land Shark founded by brothers Tom Sterling (Hartnett) and Josh Sterling (Adam Scott). What in the world Land Shark does I couldn’t begin to tell you but Hartnett as Tom Sterling does do a fine job in espousing in techno babble-ese in convincing me that whatever the hell his company does it’s something damned important and revolutionary. A few months ago the incredibly brash and self-important Tom took his company public making everybody involved with it instant Dot.Com millionaires, but now a few months later in the month of August of the year 2001, like a lot of companies of this ilk, they are floundering and in desperate need of a serious infusion of cash.

A lot of this seems lost on CEO Tom who spends most of his days pressuring his CFO Dylan (Andre Royo) to agree to release a million bucks a month so he can have a Gulf Stream, arguing with his COO Melanie (Robin Tunney) in regards to selling shares of

the company to keep it afloat, hard selling his CIO brother on letting him ‘borrow’ his shares in the company in effort to keep it going without outside interference, and blasting his disapproving father (Rip Torn) with F-bombs over dinner.  But there’s always the lovely British born Sarrah (Harris), or the one that got away that seems to bring a touch of calm into the turbulent life the Tom the total asshole.  Sarrah apparently has returned from a trip out of town and is quite content to be free from Tom, but as is usually the case with people with Tom’s personality profile, what they want the most is what they can’t have and thus Tom puts the hard sell on to bring Sarrah back into his life.  Until she gets back into his life, of course.

The curtain seems to drawing to a close for Land Shark as Tom has pretty much pissed everybody off on the planet leaving him to make some rather difficult decisions in regards to his failing company.  Decisions that will require him to be unselfish, understanding and humble.  Good luck with that one.

I’m thinking I don’t quite get what Austin Chick was trying to accomplish with ‘August’.  I suppose in a sense it is a modern day ‘Wall Street’ examining the collapse of the Dot.Com bubble of the early 21st century the way that other film examined the take over mania of the mid-eighties, though this film was interspersed with certain pop culture news items of the day such as Ben Affleck going into rehab, the divorce of Tom and Nicole and the death of Aaliyah.  Other than to establish the time frame I really didn’t get what purpose these events represented in service to the film.  Since we don’t really know what service Land Shark provided it was difficult to give much of a damn about the company itself and whether it lived or died, but then it seemed that most of the characters in the movie didn’t even know about the amazing technology Land Shark provided outside of Tom and Josh.

As a character study Josh Hartnett’s Tom was certainly a bastard, but he wasn’t that charming kind of bastard as say a Gordon Gekko was in ‘Wall Street’.  One of the failings of ‘August’ was that it was contingent of the film to convince us that Tom Sterling had the grace, charm, savvy and magnetism to convince individuals to lay down millions of dollars for he and his brother to launch this company, especially since we have no idea what this company does and we can’t rely on this mythical technology to carry us to this point.  Hartnett’s Tom is such an insufferable cad that’s its difficult to imagine that anybody would give him anything.  This further raises the question why would the character of Sarrah even contemplate reentering a relationship with Tom when even his parents and his blood brother can barely tolerate him. 

In addition to the matinee idol Hartnett ‘August’ had a fine cast with Robin Tunney doing fine work, as per usual, in a limited role, as well as Andre Arroyo and Naomi Harris doing the most with what little they were given.  Adam Scott, who usually plays the role of the asshole, also puts in a nice turn as Tom’s punching bag brother.  David Bowie surprises us by making an inspired cameo as a character who could very well be Tom forty years down the road with his brashness and callousness refined to an art form. 

Chick’s film wasn’t a bad movie by any stretch, it’s simply a movie that I personally didn’t understand the reasons behind it, the story it was trying to tell or the message it was attempting to put across.  There were enough interesting performances in it to make it watchable and Chick keeps the narrative humming at a reasonable pace, but still it was a film that I ultimately found unsatisfying.

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