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State and Main  

Joe White (Philip Seymour Hoffman)
Bob Barrenger (Alec Baldwin)
Walt Price (William H. Macy)
Claire Wellesley (Sarah Jessica Parker)
Ann Black (Rebecca Pidgeon)
Carla Taylor (Julia Stiles)
Marty Rossen (David Paymer)
Written and Directed by David Mamet
Rated R for language and brief sexuality
Running Time: 106 minutes Distributed by Fineline Features

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State and Main is a light-humored and clever “behind the scenes” comedy of a Hollywood film crew. The story opens with Hollywood director Walt Price (Macy) relocating his film crew from New Hampshire to the small town of Waterford, Vermont. Walt is out of money and fed up with just about everything that is going sour with his film and crew. The first of his problems are his top-notch actors, Bob (Baldwin) and Claire (Parker). Bob seems to be unable to leave teenage girls alone and Claire is having second thoughts about some aspects of the film. The film’s screenwriter, Joe (Hoffman), seems to be out of ideas for certain re-writes to adapt to the newly located town. Outside of some legal problems, the film’s producer (Paymer) is also urging Walt to put substances into the film that he doesn’t want. As the crew’s stay in Waterford continues, all the characters progress through an unknowingly humorous time of trying to get the film made.

State and Main is almost like a typically straight arrow tale from the mind of David Mamet. The writer/director’s style is flashed and revealed constantly throughout the film. Mamet, who was first a successful playwright, has also had a lot of success with his witty films. Some of his previous film credits include; Wag the Dog, The Edge, The Spanish Prisoner, and The Winslow Boy. His vision of a “behind the scenes” look at what goes into the making of a movie is delightful. He attaches his usual surreal characters throughout the film to stand as the centerpieces of his script. All of the characters become likeable, even though there are some characters that aren’t pleasant people. One example is the actor Bob Barlinger, who lusts after underage women. However, I found that Mamet tied a knot with his characters to show his expressionistic point of view. The dialogue in this film is also typical Mamet, which is naturally spoken and sometimes off the wall. There are some scenes where two of the characters are having a believable conversation, then out of nowhere comes some line or reaction that will hold the conversation intact, but make it different. The embodiment of the film crew seemed original and realistic, from some film stories that I have read about.

Mamet began directing a few years ago with The Spanish Prisoner, which is a fine film. He then directed The Winslow Boy, which I own but haven’t watched yet, and then he delivered this film, State and Main. I believe Mamet’s structure and script is more clean with him behind the camera or at least with him producing. Some of the parts of his stories are weird and seem unnatural at moments, but it is only a part of his style.

William H. Macy shows the stress of being a time-oriented filmmaker through his eyes and body language. The actor also has a lot of fun with the role by contributing to the optimistic comedy as the director Walt Price. Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers the best performance in the film as the confused and tenderhearted writer Joe White. Hoffman has a transformable flexibility with his acting, and this character, though different, is one of the most natural characters that he has ever played. Alec Baldwin is deliberate and arrogant as the superstar actor Bob Berlinger. Rebecca Pidegon, Mamet’s wife, turns the most workable acting I have ever seen her do as Ann, even though in some scenes she still reflected lost. Also, upcoming star Julia Stiles (Carla) and Sarah Jessica Parker (Claire) each turn in conventional and admirable performances in the film. I saw a very influential performance in this film by David Paymer, who plays the fix-a-minute producer Marty. Paymer shows intrigue and darkness about his character that resembles another side of the production team that is always deadline orientated and money hungry. For the most part, the acting cast of State and Main worked well together and are very believable with their performances.

State and Main is a common film that is also different. The characters are Mamet prototypes and if you are a fan of his work, you will like this film. If you haven’t seen much of or any of David Mamet’s films, State and Main is your chance to see his quirky vision released with comedy.

Report Card Grade: B-

Beastman’s Movie Reviews
Copyright, 2001 Joseph C. Tucker

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