It's uncool to be too connected. This is the main lesson to be learned from August, a new movie set in millennial New York just before the dot-com market went bust. Josh Hartnett plays a flashy young entrepreneur with a promising Internet startup. He soars into stardom on a wave of hype. Then, while he's busy doing models and blowing off naysayers, his company comes crashing down and he loses it all.
August, which inspired a steady stream of walkouts when I caught it at Sundance, is not a good movie. Meant to be a cautionary tale about hubris and the ethereality of the Internet, it actually glamorizes the cluelessness of its (somewhat) tragic hero. (This isn't the intention, of course; it's the result of the filmmakers' botched execution.) Hartnett's Tom is more of a stud than the era's swingiest paper-millionaire. He drives an awesome vintage convertible. He has a neck tattoo. (You know, like hedge-funders have fauxhawks.) Tom's Tribeca-based house of sand only stays together as long as it does thanks to his clear-headed younger brother, Joshua (Adam Scott). Needless to say, Joshua is a big dork.
In person, Hartnett doesn't have Tom's swagger. He likes to stand with his hands in his pockets. But at Wednesday night's New York premiere of the film, he showed that hip obliviousness to the wired world that his (our) generation is supposed to have pioneered. "I was really technologically advanced when there were VCR's and things like that," he told me, but not any more. He said he mainly uses his laptop for downloading music. "I don't even like to talk on the phone. I kind of am where I am."
I don't like to put words in anyone's mouth, especially anyone with Hartnett's battleaxe of a publicist, but I think there are two ideas at work here: that technological aptitude is something one outgrows, and that the plugged-in masses are stuck in aspirational limbo. They aren't where they are, so to speak, because part of them wants to be somewhere else--somewhere cooler. But if they were cool, they would already be there. The reason Bluetooth is not cool is that anyone using it--and you'll notice that it's almost always guys--is trying too hard to get there, and the proof is sticking out of his ear.
These are all fair points, even if (in this case) there's a certain amount of celebrity self-satisfaction behind them. And you can't blame a guy like Josh Hartnett for thinking this way: if you're famous, way more people are trying to get in touch with you than vice-versa. You're paying people to handle a good deal of your communications for you, why not let them handle it?
Of course, Hartnett's publicist joked that he doesn't return her calls, which only makes sense.
(Next week: Susan Sarandon talks about how the Internet is going to "save our ass," even if she doesn't really use it.)