State and Main

State and Main humorously chronicles the effect a Hollywood film crew has on small-town America. A movie called The Old Mill is looking to shoot in Waterford, Vermont, and the experience is like nothing the town has ever experienced. The movie itself is pure David Mamet, from the refined acting to the wonderful dialogue. Mamet (The Spanish Prisoner, The Winslow Boy) is an accomplished playwright, and again works with a large cast, many of whom are Mamet regulars. If anything, there is a surprising lack of profanity in State and Main. The purpose here is twofold; to satirize the production process in Hollywood and show what kind of an influence Hollywood has on ordinary people.

The main problem hitting the film crew is that the old mill in the town burned down decades ago. This troubles pragmatic director Walt Price (William H. Macy, Magnolia, Mystery Men). He is the deal-broker, the person always willing to compromise, unlike producer Marty Rossen (David Paymer, The Hurricane, Bounce). Rossen is a no nonsense lawyer always willing to sue. The film stars Bob Barrenger (Alec Baldwin, Thomas and the Magic Railroad, Outside Providence), a mega movie star with an illegal fondness for underage women, and Claire Wellesley (Sarah Jessica Parker, Dudley Do Right, MTV's Sex and the City), who just found God and now is unwilling to bare her breasts although it was already in the contract. On top of that, screenwriter Joseph Turner White (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Almost Famous, Magnolia) is annoyed that he cannot find his typewriter and that he must continually change the script.

The Old Mill, according to White, is about one man's "quest for purity." It's basically a bunch of hooey to the townspeople. Doug Mackenzie (Clark Gregg, Magnolia, The Adventures of Sebastian Cole), a prosecutor with lofty ambitions, is the only person in town with any financial acumen. His fiancee, Ann Black (The Winslow Boy, The Spanish Prisoner) is putting on a local play whose cast disappears once Price begins holding extra auditions. Local (underage) girl Carla Taylor (Julia Stiles, Down To You, Hamlet) sets off to seduce Barrenger, and Sherry Bailey (Patti Lupone, Summer of Sam, Just Looking), the mayor's wife, sets off making a ultimate dinner party for her new Hollywood guests.

Price and Rossen hate Waterford and want to finish as soon as possible. Initially, it shocks them to see people greet each other in the streets. Their actions set in motion events that slowly fracture the 'small town America' way of living in an almost farcical manner. Truckers begin reading and discussing Variety. Mamet hones in on each person's weakness and exploits it with very funny results. It is always fun to sit back and soak in his films, since he pays a great deal of attention to detail. Little things happen in the background of scenes and characters say things that may seem innocuous but soon come back with serious repercussions. Staying through the entire credits is also worth the wait. Mamet also has the ability to coax great performances out of his actors, especially from his 'Hollywood' crew. State and Main feels in some ways like an inside joke, but this is a joke that many people can enjoy.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 42 minutes, Rated R for language and brief sexual images.

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