The name D.A. Pennebaker strikes fondness in the hearts of audiences familiar with the director's seminal cinema verite documentary "Don't Look Back" (1967), which followed Bob Dylan's last acoustic tour in England, and his more recent film "The War Room" (1994), about Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. It seems fitting that Pennebaker would produce the first documentary about the dotcom boom and bust while the hardening corpse is still warm. Under the joint direction of Pennebaker's wife Chris Hegedus and newcomer Jehane Noujaim, "Startup.com" follows childhood friends Kaliel Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman as they turn an idea about a website designed to facilitate paying local government fees, like parking tickets, into a $60 million internet company called Gov-Works.com. Co-director Jehane Noujaim, a Harvard graduate and then roommate to Kaliel, started filming in May of 1999, on the day the baby-faced boomer quit a high profile job at Goldman Sachs to become the CEO for GovWorks. What follows is a digitally filmed macro and micro record of an American entrepreneurial phenomenon that skyrocketed and quickly burned out, leaving the US economy to be devoured by Republican wolves. That we also get an intimate look at two vastly different companions sacrificing their trust on an altar of business, makes "Startup.com" an impromptu lesson in power, duty, and betrayal that goes well beyond traditional limitations of celluloid documentaries.
Rated R. 103 mins. (B+) (Four Stars)
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