Directed by: Austin Chick
First Look Pictures
Partway through indie drama August, we get to watch protagonist Tom Sterling (Josh Hartnett), the CEO of a once-hot, now-floundering tech company, chug some milk and watch a news report about Ben Affleck’s 2001 stint in rehab. Disoriented, I wondered: Does the real Josh Hartnett exist in the August universe, too? How does he feel about his Pearl Harbor co-star’s troubles? To be fair, August is set in a very specific time period (the tiny window between the dot-com bust and 9/11) that looks suspiciously like the present. But there had to be a more effective---and less fourth-wall-busting---way to evoke “August, 2001” than showing Affleck-rehab newsreels. That said, August isn’t terrible. I’m on the fence about whether director Austin Chick and screenwriter Howard A. Rodman’s decision to leave out what Tom’s company does and what most of the tech-industry buzzwords that he uses mean. This ambiguity either qualifies as “bold comment on corporate vagueness and doublespeak” or “lazy storytelling.” I wish Andre Royo (Bubbles from The Wire) had been given more to do than cluck worriedly about company finances. But Hartnett is pretty good as Tom---a hot-air-blower forced to stop buying into his own hype; a corporate asshole still capable of redemption.
---Lindsay McCarney

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