Startup.com

"Very Good"

Startup.com Review


Startup.com does not tell an exceptional story. Its melodrama is actually quite common, the tale of something that happens every day -- and much much more so in the year 2000 and on into 2001.

Documentarians Chris Hegedus (The War Room) and Jehane Noujaim were extraordinarily lucky to be at the right place at the right time in order to capture the story of govWorks.com, an Internet startup that aimed to make it easy for anyone to interact with their state and local governments through the Web -- to pay taxes or parking tickets, renew a driver's license, etc.

Sounds great, but of course, it didn't work out like the business plan said it would, and inside of two years later, the company was gone and forgotten but for the hours of digital video shot during its flameout.

Part Hoop Dreams, part Nike commercial, Startup.com focuses on the two principal founders of govWorks, Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman, childhood friends now all growed up and ready to hit the business world. Maybe it would work, maybe not: Tuzman is all business, brash and foul-mouthed. Herman is his antithesis, a touchy-feely guy who may as well live on a hippie commune. Can the opposite personalities work together to pull off a dot-com?

Foreshadowing their own demise, we see them both as alternately arrogant and frightened and rarely likable for a moment. As the new CEO, Tuzman decides he wants the name of the company to be UntoCaesar.com. Eventually he "meditates" and agrees to govWorks. Their story develops as a dead-on, true-to-life tale about how business is really done -- in front of the TV in someone's living room or over a slice at the local pizza place.

But most of Startup.com focuses on the agony of defeat: The grueling road show looking for investors... a tense meeting where the partners are offered $17 million but can't locate their lawyer... a troublesome third partner who refuses half a million dollars in cash to be bought out... a break-in assumed to be corporate espionage... and ultimately the dismissal of one of the founders, which leads to a lot of enmity among the group. Their tribulations, of course, are eventually all for naught, as the company finds itself losing ground to the competition, missing revenue targets, and then running out of cash before being acquired by another firm.

Startup.com will likely become a bellwether for business at the turn of the millennium -- simply because there's no other adequate chronicle of the spectacular rise and fall of the Internet phenomenon on film. For a business journalist like myself, who watched (and wrote) about the roller coaster personally, I found myself jaded by the struggle of Tuzman and Herman -- as if I'd seen it all before. Like I said, the govWorks saga happens every day.

While it's a worthwhile documentary, the film is certainly not without its flaws. The final months of govWorks are not adequately chronicled (we go from 233 to 50 employees in the blink of an eye and with nary a layoff, and Tuzman's ouster is never even mentioned), but most egregiously, the entire movie is out of focus more often than not, and its shakycam DV footage is so atrociously shot I was literally sick after an hour of watching.

As a modern morality play about the perils of doing business in the new millennium, Startup.com succeeds marginally -- trying to convince us that its ethical core (as Herman's mother tells us) is that people are more important than things. I'm not sure if the story of govWorks makes it that far. From where I'm sitting, the moral of the story is only this: If someone ever offers you cash for your share of a dying business, TAKE IT.

CNBC-me.



Startup.com

Facts and Figures

Run time: 107 mins

In Theaters: Friday 25th May 2001

Box Office USA: $0.5M

Distributed by: Artisan Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 86 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.