Director David Mamet has been previously known for tales of crime and his incredible way with dialogue. In recent years, he's begun to step outside his usual circle, starting with the G-rated "Winslow Boy" and continuing with showbiz comedy "State and Main". Mamet seems to feel comfortable with both, and although it's not as sharply funny as his writing for "Wag The Dog", it's still a very entertaining film.
The film revolves around a film crew trying to find a new location in Waterford, Vt. They were quickly run out of New Hampshire, and their problems follow them here. The film's star, Bob Barrenger(Alec Baldwin), has a thing for high school girls. The film's starlet Claire(Sarah Jessica Parker) refuses to do nudity, although her contract says she'd do it. The film's screenwriter Joseph 'Joe' Turner White (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) has lost his typewriter and has an even bigger problem - the "Old Mill" that the production came there for burned down years ago.
In the middle of it all is director Walt (William H. Macy), who finds himself having to occasionally yell to get his way and to work with the egos of the stars. There's never a moment without a problem, as the costumes don't work, the starts don't want to work and the crew can't make things work out. In other words, the normal day-to-day life of a movie shoot. There's romance , both positive (writer Joe and local bookseller Ann(Mamet's wife, Rebecca Pidgeon)) and negative (Bob takes a liking to local - and possibly underage - waitress Carla(Julia Stiles), as well.
The performances are generally good, but some are excellent. I've never really liked Pidgeon's performances that much in Mamet's films, but she has a real chemistry with Hoffman in their scenes that's cute. Macy's comedic timing and frustration at the problems around him is nothing short of perfect. Parker, Stiles and Baldwin are funny, as well.
"State and Main" isn't an all-out laugh-riot, but there are enough smart, amusing moments in-between that I found myself engaged and entertained. There's some really great bits - the townsfolk start reading Variety. When the money runs out, the producer wants to get a computer company product placement - the only problem is figuring how to fit it into a period film.
It's a very enjoyable film - definitely recommended if you're in the mood for a comedy.
VIDEO: Ah, New Line. No suprises, yet again. Although the transfer for "State and Main" does show a few minor flaws throughout the movie, even an "above average" title from the studio like this one still presents image quality that is more than pleasing. Sharpness and detail are consistently quite good, with some bright outdoor scenes looking particularly well-defined with fine depth.
The only flaw that I really noticed were some instances of edge enhancement in a couple of scenes. Other than that, there's nothing to complain about. No pixelation, and the only print flaws that made themselves apparent were a few stray speckles that really were hardly noticable.
Colors were quite pleasant throughout the movie. The film's beautiful exterior settings presented natural colors that looked wonderful. And, again, I could almost copy previous reviews of New Line titles in terms of image quality as the studio has never had a mis-fire in terms of image.
SOUND: "State and Main" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. As with most Mamet movies, the film is dialogue-driven, although "State and Main" does open things up slightly with the film's score. Surround use is really limited to the score, but the surrounds really don't offer more than that. Audio quality is very good, with both the score and dialogue sounding clear and easily understood.
MENUS:: Basic, non-animated menus with film-themed images.
Commentary: This is a commentary from actors actors David Paymer, William Macy, Clark Gregg, and Sarah Jessica Parker, and Patti LuPone. Macy is easily the highlight of the track, able to come up with some very amusing stories as well as be informative about what happened during the production. Some of the other actors didn't really do that much in the picture, but they are able to provide some analysis of the story and discussion of working with Mamet and the other actors.
Also: Trailer/cast & crew bios.
Final Thoughts: "State and Main" is an intelligently written and funny look at Hollywood invading a small town. New Line's DVD provides very good audio/video quality and a few decent extras. Recommended.
The Film *** 1/2
Video 90/A- = (360/400 possible points)
Audio: 88/B = (352/400 possible points)
Extras: 80/B- = (240/300 possible points)
Menus: 70/C- = (140/200 possible points)
Value: 83/B = (249/300 possible points)
FILM GRADE: *** 1/2
DVD GRADE: B