"IPO" is neither successful as an experiment in filmed group improv nor as a you-are-there satire of dot-com culture excess. Director and ringleader Daniel Gamburg generates a healthy burst of comic energy but the target is too easy and too dated. Fest berths are probably a better bet than commercial play for an old-hat topic.

“IPO” is neither successful as an experiment in filmed group improv nor as a you-are-there satire of dot-com culture excess. Director and ringleader Daniel Gamburg generates a healthy burst of comic energy directed at neurotic, solipsistic yuppies deluded with moneymaking dreams based on the flimsiest of business schemes, but the target is too easy and too dated, while the improv of his BareWitness Players draws excessive attention to itself. Fest berths are probably a better bet than commercial play for an old-hat topic.

Set in the tech bubble of 2000, pic swiftly intros each player (including identifying graphic insert) in new venture HotTot.com, which aims to let prospective parents know their future child’s gender. Marketing topper Charlene (Lee Flores Tsoflias) is the firm’s key asset, but she’s alone and an emotional mess. Egotistic founder Susan (Kerry Gudjohnsen) appears to have no time for her lesbian lover Patsy (Dawn Walters), who desires a child. Gay venture capitalists Kip and Jeff (Matthew Gardner, Mark Rachel) have funded the project, but it’s really Jeff’s money, and they’re forever at odds with each other.

Sophia (Marie Bouquet) works at the dot-com’s hectic, semi-communal office, and her conservative ways contrast with those of her vagabonding, homeless sister Kachina (Radha Lorca), who finally breaks up with irresponsible b.f. Joe (David Babich) and ends up landing an unlikely position in the office. Susan’s exec assistant Maria (Caridad Frutos) has to deal with both her boss’s temper and her b.f. Tony’s (Frank Torrano) mood swings. Completing the loose vibe in the company is programmer and office sport Mahir (Michael Wohl).

The business specifics are cannily given the light once-over and rarely detailed, while primary attention is paid to the hornet’s nest of interrelationships. But it’s in these various characters that the film — and cast — founder, since there’s so little beneath the surface.

Based on Gamburg’s story but no script, pic plays fast and loose with character couplings (Kip and Jeff split up, but then inexplicably are back together; Joe incredibly wiggles his way into the dot-com nexus just to be around Kachina). And because of the unevenness of the group improv, the comic tone tends to be pressed toward the extremes of hysteria. Only surprise is that the company’s demise didn’t come much sooner.

Glimpses of smart thesping pop through the improv approach, with the quieter manner of Frutos and, for the most part, Lorca, more watchable than their excessive colleagues. Bo-ho capitalist milieu by the Bay is absolutely captured. Vid work is average.

IPO

Production

An Enlightened Pictures production in association with the BareWitness Players. Produced by Michael Gamburg, Daniel Gamburg. Directed, edited by Daniel Gamburg, from his story.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Robon McLeod, Gamburg; music, Dorsey Dunn; production designer, Glenda Solis; sound, Joshua Porter; supervising sound editor, David Nelson. Reviewed at Slamdance Film Festival, Jan. 21, 2004. Running time: 103 MIN.

With

David Babich, Marie Bouquet, Caridad Frutos, Matthew Gardner, Kerry Gudjohnsen, Mara Katz, Radha Lorca, Mark Rachel, Glenda Solis, Frank Torrano, Lee Flores Tsoflias, Dawn Walters, Michael Wohl.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more