August

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Sundance Film Festival

PARK CITY -- "August" is another among this year's crop of features that demonstrates that having a cast with indie cred can sometimes do little to buoy a film's miscalculated execution.

The film's identifiable actors and the modest boxoffice performance of director Austin Chick's previous release, "XX/XY," might attract a buyer, but the film is unlikely to see salutary theatrical returns.

In mid-2001, Tom Sterling (Josh Hartnett) is riding the apogee of the dot-com bubble as CEO of New York-based Landshark, an Internet startup with a vaguely defined business model. While Tom hard-sells the company's services to dubious clients, his brother, Josh (Adam Scott), actually creates Landshark's broadband products.

Tom's life is full of the trappings of easy wealth -- a cash-green convertible Camaro, fancy restaurants, willing women and lavish spending. His obvious yearning for ex-girlfriend Sarrah (Naomie Harris) hints at his dissatisfaction with this extravagant lifestyle, but he's too focused on getting ahead to try to resuscitate their failed relationship.

When the cracks begin to show in Landshark's faulty business plan and the company's stock plummets, provoking a cash-flow crisis, Tom prefers to ignore the impending signs of catastrophic failure while his management team -- COO Melanie Hanson (Robin Tunney) and CFO Dylan Gottschalk (Andre Royo) -- scrambles to cover the mounting losses.

Despite the exigencies of his character's situation, Hartnett appears to be sleepwalking through the film, displaying a frustratingly narrow range of expression and emotion. Principal castmembers are broadly outlined and minimally motivated, and even a couple of intriguing supporting roles -- particularly Rip Torn as Tom's father and David Bowie as a supercilious corporate raider -- can't lift the performances out of the doldrums.

The actors are not well supported by Howard A. Rodman's self-satisfied script, which would rather tell than show, relying at several points on long, smug speeches that bring the narrative to a grinding halt. Chick appears confident that his cast plays convincingly enough without revealing much enthusiasm and neglects to lend a distinctive style on the technical side.

AUGUST
57th & Irving presents an Original Media production in association with Periscope Entertainment
Credits:
Director: Austin Chick
Screenwriter: Howard A. Rodman
Producers: Charlie Corwin, Elisa Pugliese, David Guy Levy, Clara Markowicz, Josh Hartnett
Executive producers: Patrick Morris, Austin Chick, Howard A. Rodman
Director of photography: Andrij Parekh
Production designer: Roshelle Berliner
Music: Nathan Larson
Costume designer: Erika Munro
Editor: Pete Beaudreau
Cast:
Tom Sterling: Josh Hartnett
Joshua Sterling: Adam Scott
Melanie Hanson: Robin Tunney
Morela Sterling: Emmanuelle Chriqui
Sarrah: Naomie Harris
Dylan Gottschalk: Andre Royo
David Sterling: Rip Torn
Cyrus Ogilvie: David Bowie
Running time -- 88 minutes
No MPAA rating
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