State and Main – A movie on how to make a movie

by fabioemme
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State and Main 2000 movie

Today we watched a movie about how to make movies, State and Main, from 2000, directed and scripted by the great David Mamet.

It all begins when a cinematic crew headed by producer Marty Rossen and director Walt Price arrives in the quiet New England town of Waterford.

Their purpose is to shoot a western called The Old Mill, and here the first problem arises when they discover that the town’s mill has burned down.

So from day one, young screenwriter Joseph Turner White must begin to change the story, distorting the essence of his intended narration.

Moreover, the presence of this production elicits mixed reactions among the inhabitants of Waterford.

Mayor George Bailey and his wife, for example, see the film’s arrival as an opportunity to promote their town, stimulate investment, and pluck the most cash possible from their Hollywood guests.

On the other hand, some citizens, such as the owner of the antique store, express concerns about the film’s potential impact on their quiet community.

Indeed, it is not long before Bob Barrenger, their most famous actor, returns to his taste for young girls that got him into trouble earlier by courting young Carla.

At the same time, his co-star Claire Wellesley also begins to doubt her part, especially about some of the full nude scenes she refuses to participate.

Writer Joseph increasingly finds his work closed and frustrated, but fortunately, he meets the young librarian Ann.

Through her, he not only regains his passion for his work but actually considers these unexpected incidents a challenge to test his talent.

However, when he becomes the center of a scandal that could crush the movie, the entire production will depend on his conscience and moral ethics.

A Perfect Introduction to Mamet’s World

For those unfamiliar with David Mamet‘s movies, State and Main from 2000 might be an easy place to start.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning director and screenwriter once again confirm his talent, delivering a work of extraordinary quality.

With simple, minimal elegance, this film stands out as a true comedy gem, featuring excellent performances and a narrative imbued with graceful flow.

Initially, the plot might appear monothematic and slow in unfolding, but it soon turns out to be anything but.

The narrative gradually acquires a fast pace, enriched by numerous amusing and surprisingly original twists and turns.

Master Mamet does not hesitate to hurl satirical barbs at the Hollywood production system and the hypocrisy that permeates the lives of the so-called “respectable” small-town people.

Stuffed with naive joy and devoid of boredom, the film oscillates between drama and romance, always maintaining a mild aura that inevitably leads to a smile.

The cleverness of the writing lies in its skill at cleverly interweaving the complex histories of numerous characters.

Avoiding any confusion, the movie successfully unravels the unfolding events clearly and linearly.

Moreover, the story hilariously connects the various protagonists’ interests, needs, and absurd intrigues or revenge, creating a compelling and entertaining plot.

Of course, it is easy to draw parallels between the personal vicissitudes that (I assume) Mamet went through in his career with the problems of the young, romantic lead writer played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Hollywood is a supermarket of humanity where everything is for sale, from an author’s ideas to an actress’ beautiful breasts, so what matters is getting the most by spending the least.

If you then even have to insert a website commercial inside a Western movie, the problem is the writer’s alone, and he has to solve it himself.

New actors and old guarantees

In this film, Philip Seymour Hoffman emerges as a leading man, demonstrating the talent that would bring him to prominence.

After playing numerous supporting roles, the actor displays the attributes that would establish him among the best, although his existence was tragically cut short in 2014.

His portrayal of a bumbling, dreamy screenwriter is one of the most memorable moments of his artistic career and a warning to all who intend to do this work.

Of equal caliber is the performance of the sweet and genuine Rebecca Pidgeon, an actress I had already thoroughly enjoyed in the wonderful The Winslow Boy, also directed by David Mamet.

Here, she is a little suburban goddess who perfectly embodies the role of the inspiring and redeeming muse.

The pair of actors playing the movie crew members in a challenge to see who can be more awkward is simply hilarious.

Sarah Jessica Parker, for example, was at the height of her career during the Sex and the City years, while here she is a shy actress who does not want to show herself naked.

Consistently solid and convincing, Alec Baldwin is equally problematic because of his love affair with young Julia Stiles; also another young actress waiting to rise to fame.

Finally, we applaud the formidable director/producer duo played by William H. Macy and David Paymer, who is a mix of cunning and naivete with a bit of menace and servility.

Although they approach each difficulty with great confusion, their work is always compelling, providing improbable solutions to impractical problems.

Mamet flies with the legginess of a butterfly from one to another of these characters, leaving a trail of the pleasant fragrance of happiness, albeit while cheating and lying of all kinds.

Isn’t this what Hollywood does, above all else: create that stuff that dreams are made of, something that doesn’t actually exist but is so darn important in all our lives? So I gladly rewatch State and Main because this 2000 movie still perfectly tells of today’s cinema.

State and Main 2000 movie
Amazon Prime Video




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