An intelligent and acidic if somewhat stagey comedy about a film production descending on a small New England town and the effect that each has on the other. It’s written and directed by David Mamet, not known for out and out comedy, but clearly feeling flighty at the moment, flighty enough to turn out the sort of farce you might expect from the French, or from Michael Frayn. And Mamet has the cast to perform it – Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Julia Stiles and a surprisingly good Alec Baldwin, all of them upping their game in homage to a master of the blunt misanthropic object who has spent enough time writing and directing films to know what the standard types are, and how to polish them. So we get the innocent writer (Hoffman) who doesn’t want a word of his script changed; the tyro two-faced director (Macy) doglike in devotion or attack, depending on who he’s talking to; the female star (Sarah Jessica Parker) who suddenly gets coy about whipping her top off; the male star (Baldwin) with a penchant for jailbait; the jailbait (Stiles) with a penchant for male stars; the cameraman in a beret; the schlemiel of a producer. And so on. Meanwhile, there’s the occupants of the hayseed town they descend on, including Charles Durning and Patti LuPone. They’re hayseeds, but funny hayseeds, every bit as venal as the film folk, but they’ve just had less time to perfect their shtick. Under the farce plotting of wild coincidence and Mamet’s satirical stabs, the film seems to be saying something about how far “entertainment” (when someone else does it and you watch) is from “fun” (when you do it yourself) and how the movies are somehow killing us all. Movie critics, most of them armchair-loving lazy asses, not surprisingly didn’t like State and Main very much. And of course they’re right to be cagey, Mamet being an entertainment mogul, and all.
© Steve Morrissey 2001