Saturday, December 19, 2020

State And Main

Writer-director David Mamet (GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS) adapts his trademark rat-a-tat-tat style to screwball comedy for this rollicking swipe at Hollywood movie-making. Fast-talking director Walt Price (William H. Macy) and his crew invade sleepy Waterford, Vermont to make a period piece called THE OLD MILL. Problem is there’s no old mill in Waterford anymore (it burned down in 1960—those troublesome teenage arsonists!), so it’s up to first-time screenwriter Joseph White (Philip Seymour Hoffman as the romantic lead) to make some script accommodations.

Other Waterford invaders include leading man Bob Barrenger (Alec Baldwin), whose proclivity for teenage girls got the crew kicked out of their former location; female lead Claire Wellesley (Sarah Jessica Parker), who demands an extra $800,000 to pop her top on camera; and profane producer Marty Rossen (David Paymer). Adjusting to the Hollywood gang’s frantic ways are befuddled mayor Bailey (Charles Durning) and his trophy wife (Patti LuPone); saucy teen Carla (Julia Stiles); and sweet bookstore owner Ann (Rebecca Pidgeon), who falls for Joseph against the wishes of her arrogant lawyer fiance Doug (Clark Gregg).

Although satirizing Hollywood has been done to death on screen (Alan Alda’s SWEET LIBERTY was also about a film crew invading a small New England town), STATE AND MAIN feels fresh due to its razor-sharp dialogue and terrific acting. Macy comes off best as the alternately fawning and ferocious filmmaker, delivering lines like “It’s not a lie. It’s a gift for fiction.” with aplomb. Baldwin has fun sending up his own image, while Hoffman and Pidgeon lend the film its heart. STATE AND MAIN doesn’t seem to come up much in discussions of Mamet’s filmmaking career, making it probably his most underrated feature. “Go, you Huskies.”