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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

State and Main (2000)



Reviews and Comments

State and Main, David Mamet's first pure comedy, is one of those precious Hollywood satires that pokes fun at not just ignorant studio executives but producers, directors, stars, and pretty much everybody. The sympathetic characters are all the townsfolk of a small Vermont town hosting a shoot, with one exception: the writer, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is a passionate but timid and down-to-earth idealist who actually cares about what he's doing.

There are a lot of characters in the film. Most of them are rushing about too quickly to recognize the substance of life in plain view. Their ignorance is so amazing sometimes that it seems it must be deliberate. And, boy, are they clever in their ignorance! None is more so than the film director, played by William H. Macy, who practically steals the show. It doesn't matter how many things go wrong, Macy's character, with his quick thinking, tirelessly invents the wrong solutions to all his problems. Amidst numerous blossoming disasters, there are so many straight-faced jokes flying about that it takes multiple viewings to catch them all.

A few times, the film looks like it's going to go astray, but it never does. The sympathetic characters in this are much more intelligent than most movie characters, and it's such a refreshing change of pace. Consider the scene, for example, where the writer, through no fault of his own, winds up in a hotel room with an unclothed actress and is caught by a woman he has recently met and would like to get to know better. Already, our cliche-trained minds are anticipating the inevitable developments, but we are wrong. She doesn't gasp in astonishment and flee the scene above his pleas to stay and hear his explanation: no, what happens then is utterly original and just about perfect.