If Vague is in Vogue, August is an Achievement

When reviewing films like “August” Iâm reminded a quote from John Cassavetes. One of the forefathers of American Independent film said that as a filmmaker himself he is impressed that any filmmaker can actually complete a film and that in and of itself is a major achievement. Itâs sage advice for filmmakers, especially budding directors, but not so helpful to film critics. Director Eldar Rapaportâs film is beautiful to behold, but has little new to convey about the human condition or the world we live in.

Troy (Murray Bartlett), he of the perfectly sculpted body, smoldering good looks, and the perfect face scruff, saunters back to L.A. and back into the life of his ex, Jonathan (Daniel Dugan), who Troy rather unceremoniously dumped after moving to Spain. Jonathon is involved with Raul, to a level intense enough to have encouraged his friend Nina (Hilary Banks) to marry him to keep him from deportation, but not enough to actually move in with. Troy is trouble with a capital ‘T.’ Every main character knows this, but Jonathon canât help himself.

The film’s structure attempts to be non-linear, but only manages to be confusing. Flashbacks and flashforwards happen for no apparent reason and when a flashback is called for to provide sorely needed back-story there is none. The plot has holes bigger than an L.A. side street. All we are afforded is ambiguity, with a capital ‘A.’ The gorgeous characters brood, bemoan, bitch and moan. They do not relate to one another, but rather respond to one another. They are rendered unable to answer for their actions. Even a modicum of naval-grazing would be welcome here.

We are simply suppose to accept that a woman in her right mind would marry her gay friendâs boyfriend, even though she has a boyfriend herself and her gay friend is not ready to commit to her fake husband. We arenât even privy to what country Raul heralds from and how he came to be an illegal alien in the U.S. The main characters seem trapped in lives that aren’t of their making. Troy is back, but seems to be only willing to stay if he can have Jonathon back. Jonathon wants Raul to stay, but isnât engaged enough to actually resist his ex. Truly, I could go on and on.

“August” is of high-production value, which comes as no surprise because eleven individuals are credited as producers. You have to wonder if any of them actually read the weak screenplay. The camera work, lighting, set design, and sound are all top notch. I find the film pretty, but vacant. Even the filmâs score had me scratching my head. At first, the score seems to include Spanish guitar compositions, which makes sense given the main characterâs return from Spain. Towards the end of the film, the score turns Middle Eastern, which hits its crescendo during a scene in a trendy hookah bar.

ãAugustä could have been a much better film, had its screenwriter concerned himself more with character development and less with trumped up drama. Scenes that could have been developed into something of substance are cut off at the knees. Rapaport cuts away from the action too quickly, stops his characters from explaining their motives, and generally seems concerned more with the look of the film than with telling an compelling story. There’s really nothing happening. We can see where every path will lead, so there are no surprises. The competent actors deserve better than the trite dialogue they are forced to utter.

“August” is set in a city where sweltering heat in August should come as no surprise, but the characters act like they didn’t see it coming. The main characters are sleepwalking through situations that also seem to come as a complete surprise to only them. It’s rare to watch a film with not one humorless situation. Thereâs no real humanity here. One character actually says in response to his crying niece: “Can’t you shut it up.” The charactersâ lackluster approach to sex may be trying to make a point, but it fails to do so. How are we supposed to care about such featureless characters and how should we respond to such a souless feature film?