Review: ‘e-dreams’

The dot-com boom having since gone bust, docu "e-dreams" plays out in quite a different offscreen context than did last year's similarly themed sleeper "Startup.com." While there's surely a great deal of overlap between two nonfictioners, thoroughly engaging pic has its own distinct virtues.

The dot-com boom having since gone bust, docu “e-dreams” plays out in quite a different offscreen context than did last year’s similarly themed sleeper “Startup.com.” While there’s surely a great deal of overlap between two nonfictioners, and “e-dreams” may suffer from perception that this subject has “been done” on the arthouse circuit already, thoroughly engaging pic has its own distinct virtues. Exposure in suitable fest, broadcast and rep-house berths is signaled.

Stunningly fast rise — and faster fall — of Kozmo.com began in 1999, when co-founder Joseph Park had a simple brainstorm: To (as one gushing TV profile later put it) “spread the gospel of immediate gratification” by making Internet-ordered goods receivable within one short hour. Videos, comfort food, games and other Gen X faves could be ordered online and delivered to your door by bike messenger in each Kozmo-catered burg (initially just NYC, at peak eight U.S. cities).

A seeming shoo-in for success during go-go economic times, Kozmo rocketed from an initial 10 employees to some 4,000 just 15 months later. Huge investment/tie-in deals were inked with heavy hitters like Starbucks and Amazon. But “the profitability question” haunted reckless expenditure growth, while administrative, service and personnel infrastructures strained to keep up. Premature IPO rumors (ultimately, public share sales never came to be) crashed into a newly nervous NASDAQ.

In the end “e-dreams” is most striking as a portrait of a certain kind of mass hysteria: Trusting the logic “the last thing we want to do is play not to lose,” Kozmo instead personified the classic dot.com scenario of giddy overconfidence followed by catastrophic no-there-there collapse.

Affable CEO Park is at center stage here; dynamics with his co-founders are much less highlighted (let alone contentious) than in “Startup.com.” It’s a wild ride from which he’ll no doubt recover, though pic reps a cautionary tale that suggests “hyper-growth” is a business course best consigned to Wall Street history books.

Fast paced docu debut for U.S. Korean emigre Wonsuk Chin (who previously wrote/helmed pretentious ’98 fictioner “Too Tired to Die”) sports sharp HD lensing, brisk editorial rhythms and apt use of techno-club tracks.

e-dreams

Docu

Production

A Seventh Art Releasing presentation of a Cinema Forever production. Produced by Wonsuk Chin. Executive producer, Sam Pai. Directed by Wonsuk Chin.

Crew

Camera (color, HD video), Joia Speciale; editor, Chin; sound, Andrew Reuland. Reviewed at Mill Valley Film Festival, Oct. 14, 2001. Running time: 93 MIN.
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