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STATE AND MAIN

SYNOPSIS:
When the movie production crew of The Old Mill moves into Waterford, a rural backwater in New England, director Walt Price (William H. Macy) has to tackle not just the complexities of the production but the culture clash involved. He is not assisted by a male star (Alec Baldwin) whose hobby is young girls, like the teenager at the town’s hotel, Carla (Julia Stiles), nor by the insecure writer (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who needs as much help as he can get for ideas, nor by the fact that the old mill which brought them to Waterford actually burnt down 30 years ago. As for the townsfolk, only local bookstore keeper and community theatre director Ann (Rebecca Pidgeon) seems to have a hold on sanity and reality, and her moral strength helps most when it’s needed.

“David Mamet is a lover of words, for the power they wield in the right hands. He is one of those writers for whom the epithet was coined about the pen being mightier than the sword. In State and Main, Mamet wields not so much a sword as a scalpel, scalping American film making in the process of presenting us with a microcosm of mankind as found on a movie set – a fish out of water in rural America. His talent is evident when he manages to turn a cliché like the girl-chasing film star into an entertaining comment that surprises you. He even turns the matter into the key-turning plot device. Very impressive. As the director, Mamet has moved the whole film’s mood slightly off key, shifted its reality sideways so that the characters are somewhat surreal. But it’s done with some subtlety and the notion only creeps up on you. There are some self indulgences evident - one to do with a supposed courtroom scene - and there is a fudging of a small but key plot device involving a memory-jogger on a white board that lacks continuity excellence, but the film more than compensates for these flaws with its sinewy story and superb ensemble performances from everyone. A star turnout for a stellar script and a scorchingly wicked satire.”
Andrew L. Urban

"A wonderful, witty script filled with nuance, observation and delightful characters is at the heart of State and Main, David Mamet's entertaining satire on Hollywood and filmmaking. 'Shoot first, ask questions later' may be the words written on director Walt Price's lucky pillow, but in film as in life, there is always a price to pay. The writing is intelligent and the humour accumulates like dew on a crisp, wintry morning. With an ensemble cast that zings and a laid back rhythmic jazzy soundtrack that hums, State and Main is a most enjoyable interlude. The title refers to the street names at an intersection that symbolically shapes the destiny of the characters. And what characters they are. William H. Macy is irresistible as the film within the film's director, who justifies his exaggerations by retorting 'It's not a lie, but a gift for fiction' as he pacifies the locals, his crew and his demanding stars. After all, he has to manage his leading man Bob Barrenger (Alec Baldwin, perfect) and his penchant for underage girls (Julia Styles, appealing), his temperamental lilac-loving leading lady's (Sarah Jessica Parker, splendid) sudden refusal to bare her breasts, when 'America could draw them from memory!' and his screen writer (Philip Seymour Hoffman, a real scene stealer) who finds himself at the crossroads - literally. Hoffman effortlessly conveys all the anguish, insecurity, confusion and innocence that makes Joe White a lovable teddy bear, and the one with whom we most empathise. Rebecca Pigeon (Mamet's wife) is delightful as the local bookstore owner, who like most of the locals, seem more au fait with the real issues than the Hollywood visitors. Pigeon is a terrific performer, reminiscent at times of Greta Scaachi, combining a gentle feminine touch with an appealing confident stride. As in Mamet's Winslow Boy, truth and justice comprise the main theme throughout, but here it is flaunted lightheartedly with comic flair. A delicious taste of Hollywood in a small town, State and Main is a true treat, capturing not only the paradox of the film world but juxtapositions it with the sincerity and warmth of real people."
Louise Keller

"Departing from the weightier and darker subject matter he's usually associated with, David Mamet concocts an amusing satire of movie-making in this enjoyable outing. Populated by an impressive roll call of character actors, State and Main delivers plenty of laughs as the absurdities of the filmmaking process crash head-on with the good folks of Waterford. There are two reasons why the movie people are in town. They would have Mayor Bailey (a delightful Charles Durning) believe it's because of the stained glass window on the town's old fire station that's perfect for one of the film's most important shots. The real reason is they're fleeing an under-age sex scandal in New Hampshire caused by the rampant libido of star Bob Berrenger. New town, same problem as local high schooler Carla (Julia Stiles) zeroes in on the week-willed Bob while director Walt (William H. Macy) obsesses over that shot at the firehouse and whether or not Claire (Sarah Jessica Parker) is going to appear topless. The sudden importance of minor details and loss of the big picture so common on film shoots is mined for plenty of laughs as production grinds to a halt while sensitive screenwriter Joseph (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and bookstore owner/muse (Rebecca Pidgeon, aka Mrs Mamet) rewrite scenes on a park bench. Screenwriter William Goldman's famous "no-one knows anything" comment comes to mind as this gallery of oddballs muddle through ego outbursts, professional jealousies, petty rivalries, small town politics and whether the camera can travel through the window of the firehouse to make good on Walt's grand one-shot vision. Mamet, who has directed nine films and written more than 30, harvests plenty of smiles from the fertile material and delivers big yocks here and there. The romance between Hoffman and Pidgeon is sweetly done, the humour is sharp without being cruel to its small town side-players and everything breezes along merrily for 106 entertaining minutes."
Richard Kuipers



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

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STATE AND MAIN (M)
(US)

CAST: Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Pidgeon, William H. Macy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Charles Durning, Clark Gregg, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Stiles, David Paymer, Patti LuPone

DIRECTOR: David Mamet

PRODUCER: Sarah Green

SCRIPT: David Mamet

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Oliver Stapleton

EDITOR: Barbara Tulliver

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Gemma Jackson

MUSIC: Theodore Shapiro

RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 7, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: January 4, 2001







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