New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Charles Durning, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rebecca Pidgeon, Sarah Jessica Parker, William H. Macy
Extras: Commentary Track, Theatrical Trailer, Cast & Crew Biographies
"State and Main" tells the story of a small film crew who is making a film called "The Old Mill". After being kicked out of New Hampshire for mysterious reasons, the crew has moved to the small hamlet of Waterford, Vermont. Director Walt Price (William H. Macy) is confident that he’s now found the perfect place to shoot his film, mostly due to the fact that the town boasts of their historic old mill. With screenwriter Joseph Turner White (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in tow, Price awaits the arrival of his two stars, Bob Barrneger (Alec Baldwin) and Claire Wellesley (Sarah Jessica Parker), so that filming may commence.
"State and Main" is that rare film that can make you laugh out loud and think at the same time, and it’s one of the best films that I’ve seen this year. For starters, the film is simply hilarious. David Mamet is known for his ability to create realistic characters and wonderful dialogue, and with "State and Main" he turns that talent towards the funny-bone. The film astutely combines very broad humor with more subtle and cynical comedy. Trust me when I say that you’ll be quoting the film soon after you see it. An interesting note about the humor in "State and Main" is that no one steals the show. Each character gets in their funny comment, and it accentuates the appeal of the already stellar ensemble cast. For further hilarity, make sure that you watch and listen to all of the end credits.
Obviously, I enjoyed "State and Main", but what I can’t understand is why it didn’t do more at the box office during its theatrical run. It must have something to do with the fact that the film was marketed as an art-house movie, when it really isn’t. Yes, the overall experience of watching "State and Main" will be maximized if you know something about how things work in Hollywood, but this knowledge isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying the film. Aside from the lampooning of filmmaking, "State and Main" offers more mainstream jokes and a sweet love story. Also, it’s a bit of a leap to assume that middle-America wouldn’t understand "State and Main". Mamet himself seems to drive that point home, as the movie features two "good old boys" characters, who just happen to enjoy reading ‘Variety!’ With its cast of well-known faces and stunning script, there’s something for everyone in "State and Main".
This divine transfer is accompanied by a fine <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 channel> soundtrack. As this is a dialogue-driven dramedy, the surround sound mix is subtle, yet effective. The dialogue is always clear and audible, with no distinct hissing. But, check out Chapter 11, when a thunderstorm is raging, and you’ll experience the power that this soundtrack possesses, as the thunder fills the rear speakers and excites the subwoofer.
The DVD of "State and Main" only contains a handful of special features, highlighted by the <$commentary,audio commentary>. This track features stars William H. Macy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Clark Gregg, David Paymer, and Patti Lupone. In the great tradition of New Line DVDs, this isn’t a group commentary, but a series of separate commentaries, which have been skillfully edited together to give it coherency and make as many of the comments scene specific as possible without having the speakers get off the subject to often. It contains some amusing anecdotes and we do learn about the making of the movie.
I had planned on starting this review by stating that "State and Main" must be a weird movie, because Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a fairly normal character. But, "State and Main" can only be considered unusual because it’s a truly entertaining film, offering many laughs. The DVD brings us a stunning transfer and an interesting comedy. If you read this site, you probably like movies, and if you like movies, you’ll like "State and Main". I can’t help but wonder if all of this praise will get me an associate producer credit.