First Look Entertainment
Cast: Josh Hartnett , David Bowie, Adam Scott, Rip Torn, Robin Tunney
Josh Hartnett is a man bearing many acting caps, be it as Jamie Lee Curtis' son in "Halloween: H20," a lovesick GI in "Pearl Harbor" or his memorable Travolta-esque Tripp Fontaine in "The Virgin Suicides." Now that most of the chick clique who made Hartnett a teen idol has grown up, Hartnett, like Leonardo DiCaprio can settle into serious character pieces in ventures that perhaps offer both actors even more challenge than ever before. While DiCaprio aces any script you put into his golden mits these days, Josh Hartnett is now in the position to take hold of his own reins and elevate his acting stature, which he does splendidly in "August," a "Wall Street" for Generation Tech.
Hartnett plays Tom Sterling, a pompous young buck with business savvy and fabricated street cred that makes him and his dot com company Land Shark a New York legend. The art of the sell for Tom Sterling is the bait and switch motif using his tattoos, casual wear faire and arrogant posturing with sleek magnetism. Unlike Charlie Sheen in "Wall Street" who works his way up the chain of success through hard work then sold-out scruples upon landing the account of a lifetime in Michael Douglas, Josh Hartnett in "August" is a snotty nouveau riche punk who, along with his brother Joshua Sterling (Adam Scott) are already at the established peak of their success, only to topple in the midst of the 2001 stock market crash. Whereas Michael Douglas plays an important role as the elder statesman who corrupts Charlie Sheen in "Wall Street," "August" switches feet by having Josh Hartnett's character not-so-much corrupt as in way over his head. Tom Sterling, living life to the edge, is ultimately forced to humble himself before a corporate investment mogul played by none other than David Bowie.
Hartnett's New York City groove is danced to a power play tempo that causes him to lose sight of his external reality. He inadvertently uses his brother to keep their dot com trading venture afloat. He inadvertently flushes away his romance with a returning flame, Sarrah (Naomie Harris). He inadvertently treats his senior staff like dung while floating a crew of do-nothing youngsters in the interest of keeping up appearances. Along the way, Hartnett uses his puppy dog charm to keep those he actually loves within reach with one chiseled arm, while his smug superciliousness instantly pushes them away with the other. Part of his machismo is driven by a burning desire to be appreciated and respected by his family, particularly his father, played by Rip Torn. In turn, Hartnett's Tom Sterling is a next-gen yuppie lacking the moral fiber to do the right thing when he shows up fashionably late and slopped down, all for show at an important business meeting in the film's opening montage. On the flipside, his public persona bears so many varying mystiques he can win over an audience by chucking a canned speech in favor of his crass and nervy thoughts of the business tech world.
Nonetheless, Sterling's blatant insolence, particularly for junior executives in his own age bracket, is ultimately his downfall, and in what this writer likes to call the "Clockwork Orange Syndrome," his entire world falls apart by the seam until his New York Minute has expired. Tom Sterling is forced to learn humility at the hands of David Bowie, who frigidly calls him out on his shabby business tact by undercutting the stock price almost 85% below market at 51% controlling interest and then issuing the largest edict, complete removal from Land Shark. Here lies Hartnett's opportunity for redemption.
Loss of company, loss of family, loss of love interest, loss of pride, Josh Hartnett plays his charge with strict attention to the emotional train wreckage one should expect of a forcefully-extracted hard life lesson. The background score is primarily heaped with blaring electro lounge, which gives "August" an appropriately understated bounce. Director Austin Chick throws out various media headlines from the first two-thirds of 2001 through flickering cathodes, and with the film being set in Manhattan, one already suffers a bit of claustrophobia in wonderment as to whether Chick is going to "go there" by touching on the impending 9/11. What's classy is that he does not, instead leaving us with a parting shot headline of the late hip hop singer Alliyah's tragic death. The power of suggestion of harsher times in New York City 2001 is looming ahead, just as the film pulls away in the airs of reconciliation… Creepy yet wonderfully poignant.
Assuming those tattoos on the suddenly older yet stylishly grungy Hartnett are real and not henna, it should be interesting what roles he generates from this point. At the very least, "August" makes a demonstrative statement that Josh Hartnett is his own man and no longer a "Tiger Beat" slave…