"A sleepy Vermont town", notes writer-director David Mamet, outlining the plot of State and Main
, "gets invaded by a movie company and ... everyone in the town is suborned, polluted, saddened and ruined. So it's a comedy." As indeed it is--and, despite his typically acerbic summary, one of Mamet's most light-hearted films. At times, as in the shyly blossoming romance between screenwriter Philip Seymour Hoffman (playing Mr Nice Guy for once) and bookstore-owner Rebecca Pidgeon, it turns almost sentimental. Mamet's views on Hollywood are notoriously jaundiced ("Hell with valet parking", he once called it), but State and Main
never really sticks the knife in. Many of the characters--the single-minded, manipulative director, the nympho actress who won't bare her breasts for the camera, the seemingly naïve locals who prove no less devious than the incomers--are strictly from stock, and much of the film covers similar ground to Alan Alda's underrated Sweet Liberty
(1985). Some of the plot feels over-contrived, too. Since they're planning to shoot a movie called The Old Mill
, the filmmakers are disconcerted to find on arrival that said mill burned down 40 years ago. Like, the location scouts wouldn't have noticed? Still, Mamet's dialogue is as crisp and literate as ever and the cast turn in diverting performances--especially the ever-excellent William H Macy as the director, and Alec Baldwin, spoofing his own image, as a predatory star with a taste for underage skirt. Altogether State and Main
serves up a diverting satire on the lunacies of showbiz, though lacking the last degree of bite.
On the DVD: Extras don't amount to much apart from a batch of cast-and-director interviews. Of these, Mamet and Macy (who share a dry sense of humour) offer the best value. Baldwin sounds oddly star-struck over his fellow-actors; "I'm a fan more than anything", he gushes. With Dolby 5.1 sound and widescreen (1.85:1) the picture sounds and looks handsome, though in such a dialogue-driven movie visual spectacle's hardly a key priority.--Philip Kemp
Satire on the movie-making business from writer and director David Mamet. The cast and crew of 'The Old Mill' are forced to move location from New Hampshire to a small town in Vermont due to the excessive demands by the locals. But they discover that a crucial location, the local mill, burnt down 40 years ago in 1960. The scriptwriter (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is more interested in one of the local girls rather than do a last minute rewrite; the lead actress (Sarah Jessica Parker) is moaning about her nude scenes; and the lead actor (Alec Baldwin) is more interested in a local teenage fan than he is in the film. What could possibly go wrong?