Sunday, February 9, 2014

State and Main

David Mamet
Writer David Mamet
Starring Alec Baldwin, Charles Durning, William H. Macy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Patti Lupone, David Paymer, Julia Stiles, Rebecca Pidgeon
IMDB Entry

In memory of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

David Mamet is best known for for his serious films and plays, especially the brilliant Glengarry Glen Ross.  But in 2000, he tried his hand at comedy.  The result, State and Main is uneven, but entertaining overall.

The movie is about a favorite subject of filmmakers – the madness of making a movie.  The production of the new film, The Old Mill, has to suddenly relocated into Vermont and State and Main shows the havoc it causes.  The film’s director, Will Price (William H. Macy), tries to keep things going, though he has a slight setback when he discovers the town doesn’t have an old mill.  He leaves it up to screenwriter Joseph Turner White (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who gets stricken with massive writer’s block.  In the meantime, Clare Wellesley (Sarah Jessica Parker) suddenly decides not to do the nude scene she had agreed to do and leading man Bob Berringer (Alec Baldwin), whose eye for underage women got the kicked out of their last location, is smitten with local teen Carla (Julia Stile), who knows exactly what she wants.

The cast is certainly a good one.  Most of the actors probably jumped at the chance to work with Mamet.  And while the result may not have been typical Mamet,*  it also has plenty of laughs with a lot of farcical notes.

imagePhilip Seymour Hoffman shows his incredible range by playing White, a man filled with self-doubts, but also very funny and charming as he builds a relationship with Ann (Rebecca Pidgeon), the town bookstore owner. People are rightly praising Hoffman after his tragic death this week, but little of the praise mentions his ability to do things like light romantic comedy.

The movie did only so-so in the box office and probably didn’t make back its budget.  Mamet returned to what he was best at – dramas filled with brilliant dialog about men and double crosses.  The rest of the cast continued with their successes. 

*It didn’t have as much swearing.

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