Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"State and Main" (2000) - Movie Review

David Mamet’s “State and Main” is the first film of him I have seen with the complete intention of a comedy movie. It draws similar to the Truffaut’s “Day for Night” but does not have underlying symbolism, messages and the truth behind this facade of scenes. It is again the breath in which Mamet can bring his people together and in that put together a plot connecting them. In that he has his writing as he always does and actors who come through like they always do for the man.

This film changes its mind to be satire, hard real life and Hollywood massage of truth. A film crew arrives in a small town where there is one doctor (Michael Higgins) to treat every one and they complaint of his inability to treat properly right to his face. They call him irrespective of that because he gets the things right in several tries. People are good eating their simple food in their centre diner and live for the event of scheduled nothingness.

In this David Mamet’s characters flow through. There is the director Walt Price (William H. Macy) rightfully managing his talent and yelling at his work force. The talent comprises of a macho actor Bob Barrenger (Alec Baldwin) on the look out for girls under the age of sixteen. To equally match the alpha male is the drama queen female lead Claire Wellesley (Sarah Jessica Parker). Amongst these crazy bunch is the naive and sincere writer Joe White (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Mamet’s sympathy for the profession he built upon his career is obvious. And Hoffman’s Joe is a symbol of that purity the character keeps on talking about the content of his script.

Mamet’s version of life gone upside down in this calm town is a different take. The focus goes around the table and distributes itself evenly. William H. Macy as the director and David Paymer as producer are cut throat business men being who they are by the job they do. Walt can change tone, mood, voice and charm when he wants to. He is merciless to one of his assistant director while coils around to give an old lesson to his actor. He is the director who takes tough decision and erases and paints again his conscience as the road takes him.

The movie does not quite take off as it does in Mamet’s films. By the time we get some sword fights on words, it is quarter through the film. In this cut throat film, Mamet wanted some consolation of his soul he generally denies for the brutal reality. Here he manages to bring in a romance between the lovable writer and a local bookstore owner Annie (Rebecca Pidgeon). Both do not share flirty lines but serious discussion of the lines Joe is wrote and is writing for the film. There are kisses missed and a formula consummation to it. Whether Mamet is mocking the Hollywood formula or finding a place for himself to convince in the nicety the film decides to take upon is confusing. Either way, it sways away the movie from the sharpness of the writing.

“State and Main” has characters who are cruel to their colleagues and mean to their workforce. It also has the townspeople being themselves and having a little bit of action due to the movie crew they have brought into their little town. There are people with little agendas and too much expectation. Pot hole, second chance, purity and breasts will become common theme and running jokes in some impressive and some unnecessary ways.

This film coming from the writer giving birth to “Wag the Dog” goes soft for once. That film had a stronger tone in its content and did not hesitate to take a darker road in the end. As much as the satire was fun, it had a solidity in its story. “State and Main” is amusing and funny as it plans to be but has minds on different things than settling for a single agenda. It has multitude of characters and sub plots and lot of loose gravel to make it not so good ride.

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