State and Main

sleeping dogRated: R
Stars: Alec Baldwin, William H. Macy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Stiles

David Mamet (writer/director) notwithstanding, this film screens like a fairly bad play with largely bad dialogue. It’s an insider look at Hollywood lunacy when a film crew arrives to shoot a movie in a small Vermont town that no one’s ever heard of. It’s filled with horribly arrogant characters doing horribly arrogant things that you just want to spit at them. Yeah, that’s the whole point of the satire, you may say. And I say, fine, but I really didn’t like it no matter what genre you put it in because frankly, it just wasn’t particularly good.

Walt Price (William H. Macy), the director of the project, takes over the town after having to move from their New Hampshire location due to some sordid business involving the film’s big star Bob Barrenger (Alec Baldwin). The project is a period piece called The Old Mill. Walt’s biggest problem right now is lack of money and no old mill. His humor is taxed further by Barrenger’s penchant for underage girls; Barrenger’s got his eye on the sweet pee who delivers his sandwiches from the town’s diner – Carla (Julia Stiles) and the film’s female lead, Claire (Sarah Jessica Parker) who’s now refusing to do a nude scene she previously contracted to do. To top it off, screenwriter Joe White (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) has to rework the script to get rid of the old mill and he’s adamant about not compromising his work; he’s also quite blocked which prevents him from coming up with any solutions. That is until he meets the town’s pretty bookshop owner named Ann (Rebecca Pidgeon who just happens to be Mamet’s real-life wife).

There’s but one story thread that’s worth watching, and that’s the relationship between Joe, who by this time is a neurotic mess and Ann who seems to offer him solace on a personal and professional level. Even that is tainted by the casting of Pidgeon who is far too high brow in her speech pattern to portray a small town gal, book store owner or not. Mamet thinks by having her use the word “ain’t” she’ll pass.

Other problems include having a small town lawyer/politician (Clark Gregg) fast talk and reel off four letter words as quickly as the film crew folks. It didn’t seem to fit to portray him as sharky as Walt and producer Marty Rossen (David Paymer). Mamet could have had him work up to it but he was that way right out of the gate. Also, when the ‘only thing of value’ in the entire town, a beautiful stained glass window at the Fire House, is smashed by a disaffected cameraman, not one single person in town seems to notice. I will admit, though, there were a few funny lines sprinkled in for good measure.

Also featured are: Charles During as the Mayor and Patti Lupone as his wife

Lotta says: I think the biggest problem I had with this film is that the characters were just too annoying for this to be any fun and secondly I think Mamet dropped the ball in a few places.

Reviewed 12/26/00.