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State and Main (2000)

  Directed by: David Mamet
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Sarah Jessica Parker, David Paymer, Julia Stiles
Links: State and Main on the IMDb, Official site, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy on DVD, Buy on Video
Genre: Comedy

This movie gets: 9.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

State and Main (2000) is also mentioned in mino's review of Teddy Bears' Picnic (2002) and mino's review of Zoolander (2001).

"So very very clever" - a review by mino

Hollywood is funny. There are no two ways about it -- you can always get a laugh from the American film industry. Whether intentionally (good comedies must exist somewhere, you know), indirectly ("Ha! I can't believe we're in a cinema full of people laughing at Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999)! That's so funny!"), or unintentionally ("What's that? Brendan Fraser and an animated monkey!? Sure, I'll get my chequebook", says coked-up studio exec. "Hahahaha!", says the moviegoing public), there are chortles to be had.

But just when you think that the only yuks you're going to get out of L.A. are at them, not with them, along comes a film like State and Main, which actually makes you laugh for all the right reasons.

State And Main is the latest film from David Mamet, and quite frankly it's a pearler. The story revolves around a slightly shady, very shoddy film crew, who have been uprooted from their previous shooting location, right before being run out of town on a rail. They pack up and move on to the sleepy town of Waterford, Vermont, which is far from prepared for an invasion of Hollywood types and their associated quirks, problems, arguments, steamroller tactics, and legal tangles.

State And Main veers a little from Mamet's regular style (e.g. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)), and it's really not much more than a light-hearted satirical comedy (in a style not unlike that of Christopher Guest's "mockumentaries"). However, it's a very well-made one: it's great to see a Hollywood comedy that isn't just plain stupid, an all-too-rare sight these days.

The standout performance in the movie is clearly that of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is in a very different role here to the quirky, slightly creepy, characters he tends to play (see Happiness (1998) or Magnolia (1999)). Right when you think he's in danger of becoming typecast, he shows his incredible talent by playing State And Main's film-within-a-film's writer, basically a soft-hearted lovable goofball. The strong, domineering role in the film, that of beseiged and arrogant director Walt Price ("Who designed these costumes? It looks like Edith Head puked, and that puke designed these costumes!"), is left to perennial soft-hearted lovable goofball William H. Macy, who turns in a fantastic performance (does he know any other kind?).

Julia Stiles shows why she's very much in-demand as a young actor who can play a role 'naturally' -- and, more importantly, likably, a quality missing in many of todays young whippersnappers, as far as this old grump is concerned. Other notable performers include Sex And The City's Sarah Jessica Parker as the lead actress, who discovers her inner morality at the worst possible time for poor Walt, David Paymer as the deliciously sleazy producer, and Alec Baldwin as the sex-crazed lead actor, who is always up for a piece of very young 'tail' -- a role he plays so convincingly that any comment I might make would be foolish indeed given our state's stringent libel laws.

Of course, not everything in picturesque old Waterford is quite as it seems -- and by the end of the movie, you can only feel sympathy for the disasters that befall the domineering film crew, who just can't be hated, no matter how hard they try.

This is a really great movie. Witty, rather than traditionally 'funny' movies, are hard to do well; Hollywood's attempts at 'clever comedy' can too often only evoke a wry smile, or at best an odd chuckle -- but State And Main is, to put not too fine a point on it, a cack. A couple of one-dimensional characters, the only slip-up on the writing front, aren't enough to put a dampener on this baby. I laughed, I laughed hard, and there was nary a poo joke or a tongue frozen to a lamppost to be seen.

State And Main is an thinking-person's comedy, with great performances and even better writing. See it before your brain turns to mush.

mino gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 6 Jun 2001

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