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Sep 9, 2007

State and Main (2000)

I like David Mamet's movies. When a local department store was selling a copy of his House of Games for eight bucks, I bought it even while I was appalled at how cheaply such a great flick could be acquired. It's the same feeling I had when I got The Third Man for ten bucks.
(Pause while blogger goes to the kitchen for a glass of Bombay Sapphire Gin over ice. Gotta love summer time.)

State and Main is in some ways an atypical Mamet film. The only crime in it is one that neither the victim nor the perp are particularly concerned about. For the drunk driving movie star it's a hobby, for the teenaged girl, it is a potential way out of the backwards Norman Rockwell town. The town is Waterford, Vermont where a film crew arrive to make a period movie called "The Old Mill". The writer, Joseph Turner White (Phillip Seymour Hoffman)is enchanted with the place, and particularly its' book store owner Ann Black, (Rebecca Pidgeon) who to him is a voice of clear sanity contrasting with the self-serving rapaciousness of the director Walt Price (William H. Macy) who's motto is "Shoot First And Ask Questions Later", the egocentric faux-vulnerable manipulations of the starring actress Claire Wellesley (Sarah Jessica Parker), the wolverine stylings of the producer Marty Rossen (David Paymer) and the lazy studliness of movie star Bob Barrenger (Alec Baldwin) of whom the following is said:

Walt Price: What does he like?
Bill Smith: 14-year-old girls.
Walt Price: Well, get him something else. We want to get out of this town alive. Get him half a 28-year-old girl. How's my math?

Bob's liaison with a local girl (Julia Stiles), Claire's reluctance to do a topless scene for less than an extra $800,000, Joseph's dual dilemmas of of how to write a movie called "The Old Mill" when the mill burnt down during an arson spree in 1960 and his increasing attraction to Ann, all churned together with Mamet's sharp dialogue make for an amusing comedy.

I'm a sucker for movies about movie making, and this one does it neatly. How does Joseph keep honest in a millieu where the only morality is to get the movie made? How does Ann's ex-fiance Doug Mackenzie get his chance to run for public office? How does Bob avoid gaol and Claire avoid getting kicked off the movie for not showing her tits when she's contractually obligated to? All the questions are answered, but not in a linear way.

There are some nice jokes here. The mayor (Charles Durning) is named George Bailey, just like Jimmy Stewart's character in "It's A Wonderful Life". This is not a world shattering movie, but one that's full of unexpected twists and interesting characters.

(Originally posted aturday, January 08, 2005)

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