Startup.com (15)

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Starring
*

The ViewLondon Review

StarStarStarStarStar
Review byMatthew Turner19/09/2001

Five out of five stars
Running time: 103 mins

Excellent documentary, hotly tipped to take next year’s Oscar – by turns moving and funny, it’s ultimately about the conflict between personal and business relationships.

As legendary documentary producer D.A.Pennebaker notes, "the real key with these types of films is access". Startup.com epitomises that remark, since the access granted to its subjects -childhood friends Kaleil Izaza Tuzman and Tom Herman- yielded a stunning total of 400 hours of footage.

That, together with the use of mini-digital cameras and combined with the fact that Noujaim was Tuzman’s friend and flatmate, ensured that some of the scenes achieve a true fly-on-the-wall quality, so much so that you sometimes feel you shouldn’t really be there.

The story begins as Tuzman and Herman go into business together, along with eight other partners and a business plan.

Almost immediately, they are arguing over what to call the company – nerdy, whiny Tom wants govWorks.com, while bullish, confident Tuzman prefers UntoCaesar.com. Tom wins, Tuzman sulks and you can immediately tell that it will all end in tears.

The tragedy is that their idea is a fundamentally sound one – the aim of the site is to enable people to conduct time-consuming town hall business (such as paying parking tickets etc) over the internet, without having to take a day off work to do so.

Unfortunately, they suffer several setbacks, from not being able to find their lawyer during a crucial fund-raising meeting, to suffering a highly suspicious break-in that looks like industrial sabotage, to -heartbreakingly- having a rival company pip them to the post on the launch.

There is a lot of humour in the film, most of it at the expense of Herman and Tuzman – e.g., Tuzman ranting at Herman’s answering machine, Tuzman leading his employees in a ‘power chant’ session, the ‘retreat’ with Herman’s parents and –hilariously- Tuzman offering Bill Clinton a job and handing over a business card!

Ultimately, then, the film is about the conflict between personal and business relationships, and, even though both men are intensely annoying, you still root for them to work it all out and succeed. To that end, there are some truly gripping sequences, such as when Tom is forced out of the company and literally escorted from the building.

This is a superb film, and one that will have anyone with experience of the dotcom industry wincing with recognition. Often moving, frequently painful to watch and occasionally downright hilarious, this is one of the best films of the year. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 11/12/2017 11:20

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