First Look Pictures // 2008 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // September 24th, 2008
Excess breeds success.
Austin Chick's latest directorial effort August isn't a disastrous failure, but it's not necessarily captivating. The film had an extremely short and limited theatrical run this summer, and considering the nature of its subject matter, I seriously doubt it will attract a larger audience on DVD.
Written by Howard A. Rodman, the film tells the story of Tom Sterling (Josh Hartnett, 30 Days of Night), the enthusiastic CEO of Landshark. Tom thinks he and his new Internet company are unstoppable, and his only goal, he tells us, is to make money. Unfortunately, there's one problem Tom seems to forget every now and then. His business is still in lockup, his millions of dollars still exist only on paper, and Tom just keeps blowing off everybody who's interested in hiring him.
When the stock market suddenly drops in August 2001, troubles start to knock on Tom's door. Landshark is quickly losing tons of money, and Tom is too stubborn to do anything about it. He receives several offers from investors who would like to buy into the company, but losing a considerable portion of control is something Tom wants to avoid at all cost. At the same time, Tom also tries to deal with personal problems as he struggles to get back together with his girlfriend and work out his creative differences with his brother and business partner Joshua (Adam Scott, The Aviator).
August does a fairly decent job at offering viewers a basic portrait of a young businessman whose overconfidence eventually ruins his career, but the biggest problem I have with the movie is the fact that it doesn't dig deeper into the complex mind of its lead characters. Tom especially is a character I wanted to be able to explore in more depth, but the simplicity of the plot made this impossible. Instead, all we get to observe really is to what extent Tom behaves like a jerk. We see him making his own rules, picking up the phone when he wants and showing up at meetings when he thinks it's the right time, but we never get a better insight into why he is the way he is.
Worse, we never really find out what it really is that Tom does at Landshark. Okay, it's an Internet startup and they deal with advertising, but that's all we learn. Just like Tom's father David (Rip Torn, Men in Black), the question we ask as viewers is: What the heck is Tom doing? I mean, all the Landshark employees are doing at the office is playing computer games and eating cookies. Maybe I'm missing something here, but that's really an issue that prevented me from caring about these characters in the first place. Tom and his people keep on talking about revolutionizing the Web and achieving great things in the future, but screenwriter Rodman treats us like outsiders who are not supposed to know what is really going on.
Additionally, Rodman's script is overstuffed with subplots that are not captivating enough because they lack development. Besides Tom's struggle to keep his company alive after the stock market drops, he's also trying to resist his loneliness by looking for some affection and sympathy from his ex-girlfriend, his brother, and his parents. Unfortunately for Tom, he's pretty much fighting with all of them, which certainly doesn't make his situation any easier. Alas, none of this makes the film any more interesting. There's simply not enough time to examine these relationships with proper care, a predicament that proves to be a main factor in the movie's failure to capture the attention of its viewers.
Josh Hartnett does his best to play the overly energetic, young business man who thinks he's invulnerable, but there's only so much he can do with a weak script. He's got the looks and the attitude to handle this kind of role, but Tom Sterling is not an interesting enough character for him. With better dialogue, I'm sure he would have come across as more credible. Although he doesn't get as much screen time as Hartnett, Adam Scott delivers a solid performance as Tom's brother Joshua, the creative designer behind Landshark. The film also stars David Bowie as a big-time investor, but his appearance is too brief to stand out in any way. The whole subplot devoted to his character feels rushed and rather unnecessary.
Besides a couple of previews, the DVD of August doesn't offer any special features, which is quite disappointing.
Although the film's monotonous soundtrack can get a little annoying after a while, the disc boasts a solid audio transfer with a crisp and clear sound throughout. The 1.66:1 widescreen transfer looks good as well, offering a sharp image quality in what is a mostly dark film without much lighting.
August could've been a far better film if Rodman had only invested a little more time into the screenplay. While Hartnett does his best to inject the flick with fresh energy, the plot is too slow moving and unsurprising to impress. The film is the epitome of a missed opportunity.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: First Look Pictures
* 1.66:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R