State and Main
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

David Mamet is an amazing guy. Besides writing plays and screenplays by the dozen, he can direct too.  His last three movies have been real doozies, The Spanish Prisoner, The Winslow Boy (one of my top ten films from 1999) and now State and Main.  These movies were all written or adapted by Mamet as well.  There is little in common among these three films other than the appearance of his wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, in all of them.  The Spanish Prisoner was a very stylized thriller, The Winslow Boy was a period piece, and State and Main is a satire on Hollywood.  The plot is simple. A movie company descends on a small New England town for some shooting on location.  This town has been chosen because it has an old mill. This is very important since the title of the movie being shot is The Old Mill.  Unfortunately, the old mill burnt down 40 years ago but is still featured in the town's promotional literature.  The director (William H . Macy) and the producer (David Paymer) must convince the unhappy writer (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to do a major rewrite. Meanwhile, the stars of the film (Alex Baldwin and Sarah Jessica Parker) are making trouble by seducing an underage girl (Julia Stiles) and by refusing to disrobe for the camera. You can guess which does which.  Meanwhile, the writer finds solace with the only cultured person in town (Pidgeon) who runs the local bookstore.  Also, in the mix are the Mayor (Charles Durning) and his wife (Patti LuPone).  Many of you fervently believe  that I won't give a comedy a good review. Ha!  Just watch me. If the combination of all these great actors with the writing and direction of Mamet sound like they would lead to a wonderful film, you would be right.  State and Main is pretty wonderful.  Ok, this isn't There's Something About Mary although there is a lot of slapstick.  I'm sure I like it so much because the humor requires some slight intelligence on the part of the viewer.  But it is hilarious.  You have to appreciate the humor in someone ordering a ``Tuna BLT." And watch for how they handle product-placement of a company in The Old Mill which is set in 1895.  The whole cast is fab. In particular, Hoffman is great as Mamet's alter ego. If you are wondering why all the writers in Hollywood are about to go on strike, Mamet is here to tell you that they have severe self-esteem problems.  Hoffman is what we call ``hot" right now after roles in high-profile films such as The Talented Mr. Ripley and Magnolia. But for me, he will always be Dusty talking about the ``suck zone" in Twister.  Macy does his usual amazing job playing the slightly disoriented and not very nice director, while Paymer is nicely nasty as the producer.  Mamet is exorcising a few demons here.  He also likes to feature his wives in his films.  House of Games, his great 1987 film, starred Mamet's then wife,  Lindsay Crouse, as the psychiatrist and love interest.  Pidgeon, married to Mamet since 1991, played the secretary and love interest in The Spanish Prisoner, the sister and love interest in The Winslow Boy, and bookstore owner and love interest in State and Main. She is a very peculiar actor.  She's a bit like William Shatner in that she always seems to think she is on-stage at the New Globe Theatre.  Sometimes this works very well as in The Winslow Boy, sometimes it is very weird as in The Spanish Prisoner.  Here, it works because everyone else in the movie is overacting on purpose.  Baldwin and Parker play dopey versions of their real selves quite humorously.  The writing is great, and the comic timing in the acting and direction is particularly nice.  The plot moves right along, only running out of steam a bit towards the end where they make the mistake of getting a bit serious.  I know you don't trust me on these comedy things but this will be on my soon-to-be-released top ten list for 2000.