The epic irony of course is that the fictitious company depicted in the film, Land Shark, (years ahead of its time, impressive but unrecognized or perhaps unneeded function, piecemeal devaluation) mimics the film itself in its less-than-glamorous critical reception and subsequent out-phase. Pick it up for $2 and amaze yourself that at one point in time, theaters were charging $12 for a one time view. And yet this film will always hold a place amongst people with advanced brain wiring and an abnormal taste for perennial melancholia. It manages to capture every emotion that the dot com boom losers felt during each stage of their venture: the eagerness, the exploitation ("We can do this!" as Tom laments to an apathetic bartender), the hype, the VCs, the market saturation, the market loss, the return of the VCs, the bitter end ("It's over" as Tom closes) and of course throughout, the undying, Olympian hubris in the midst of Silicon Valley's renaissance. Ask any CEO of a surviving software giant spawned or aggrandized during the period, and he will probably tell you Tom Sterling is him in his youth, although with much less talent and without all the failure. I personally tend to think of Ellison, and although somewhat in a different category, the late Steve Jobs when I see this film, the aberrant, happy-go-lucky geniuses who could so casually shield their companies from speculation with one suave, cutting-edge speech. As a teenager, with my dad in the technology biz, these guys were the James Bonds of my world.
But there was never any mention of the losers. I never heard their stories. The guys above were cool because they were (are) well-spoken, smart, and contrarian, but also because they succeeded, because their companies succeeded. How cool would it be if James Bond didn't win in the end? Enter the world of literature, of epic tragedies, the world in which August so fittingly belongs. It is this world that has us asking ourselves overarching questions like "Why are we proud?" "What do we really want?" "How far are we willing to go to get it?". August, like any great literary work, prods and pries, while granting us a rare glimpse at the darker side of high technology.
The film's greatest strength, the sharp, pinpoint parlance, is also its greatest weakness, as I can see how easy it might be for the average film goer to quickly become uninterested in plot and character. It's almost as if the screenwriters were aiming to perplex the viewers so that all they would hear is a weird, cacophonous blend of legal, business, and geeky babble. But for those with access to a library, or the internet, and who have a thirst for knowledge, this obstacle can easily be overcome. And when you delve into the story, and really understand things, you get a sense of place and time, a sense of importance, and you can't help but think of other grand-scheme, underrated films like Wall Street (esp. the 2nd one). You start to make sense of your world a little better, yourself a little better, and if you also get over the equally cacophonous soundtrack, then you really start to enjoy the all-star pantomime.