State and Main Reviews
But then there?s David Mamet. Anyone who knows David Mamet knows exactly what I will say next, because it is the one thing that stands out in every one of his films. I can?t take the Mamet Speak. I know some people have no issue with it, but his dialogue is like the sound of an air horn in my ears. It is so terribly unnatural, it almost sounds like aliens are delivering the lines. What can be said in 2 words is often said in 20, and I throw my hands up in the air. The crazy thing is that not every line is like this in the film. So there are moments where you are enjoying a perfectly normal conversation and then someone throws out a stupid line from a greeting card and it stands out like a sore thumb.
Now the saving grace is the cast of State and Main. There are a few guys in this film who can transform even the worst and most out of place line into gold. Philip Seymour Hoffman and William H. Macy are probably the best at it. Somehow despite the awkward dialogue shoved in their mouths, they sound real and authentic. Of course then Rebecca Pidgeon says something that sounds as robotic as if Siri had delivered the line. So I go through this roller coaster between laughing and then being annoyed that never seems to stop. When I?m able to tune out the dialogue for any length of time I consider State and Main a solid movie, it?s just too bad it didn?t have a different director.
"State and Main" follows a film crew to Waterford, Virginia, where Walter Price's (William H. Macy) latest project, "The Old Mill", is headed into production. Equipped with several of the 19th century props needed for the movie, it seems like the perfect location; but when it's discovered that the most pivotal attraction, The Old Mill itself, burned down years ago, it sets off a series of disastrous events that could lead the production into cinematic hell. Star Bob Barrenger's (Alec Baldwin) weakness for teenage girls comes to a head when he begins having an affair with the daughter (Julia Stiles) of the local restauranteur (Ricky Jay), who decides to press charges. Temperamental female lead Claire Wellesley (Sarah Jessica Parker) refuses to take her top off for a pivotal romantic scene; screenwriter Joseph Turner White (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a sensitive introvert, is having trouble with needed rewrites. All this occurs before filming even begins, and a cursed pre-production is no way to marinate a major Hollywood drama.
Because most of Mamet's films focus on the intellectual bottom-feeders of society, "State and Main" feels like an anomaly, an unusual reminder that someone so obsessed with crafty shadow dwellers is capable of having a softer side that would prefer to pass the time with comedy than with cons. I might like him better when he's cackling along with the antics of Joe Montegna and Lindsay Crouse in 1987's "House of Games", but that doesn't mean that seeing him having a good time isn't a delicacy. Able to juggle a truckload of characters like a people obsessed puppet-master, Mamet has a natural gift for comedy, perfectly aware that insecurities among celebrities and money quests among productional heads are just as funny as sitcom-ready misunderstandings. His famed Mamet speak (a silky assortment of italics and quaint pauses in his characters' linguistics) is as conspicuous as ever; it suits "State and Main"'s acerbic screwball madness.
In all, it feels more like a pastime than a comedic masterpiece from one of films greatest screenwriters, but "State and Main" is a winner all the same: lived in by a well-cast ensemble and deepened by worthy subplots (the low-key romance between Hoffman and Rebecca Pidgeon is my personal favorite), it is a Hollywood satire of rare enthusiasm. It would make for a great stage play - movie execs might be happier that way anyway.
I have watched it many times and it always makes me smile.