Coronavirus Feelgood Film Festival: State and Main
PUBLISHED: 19:34 25 March 2020 | UPDATED: 19:34 25 March 2020
Banish those feeling of isolation with this feelgood comedy about a big budget Hollywood blockbuster coming to town and finding out that their perfect location may not be as advertised
Feelgood Film Festival: State and Main; dir: David Mamet; starring: William H Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, Julia Stiles, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rebecca Pidgeon, David Paymer, Charles Durning, Patti LuPone (2000)
For anyone who loves movies and the extraordinarily convoluted way by which movies get made, State and Main is an absolute gem. It lovingly chronicles how life in a small town gets turned upside down by the arrival of a film unit.
It shows how heads are turned, palms are greased and how nothing is allowed to get in the way of the film being completed on budget and on schedule. Written by playwright David Mamet, this satire on human foibles and inter-personal relations provides a hilarious but ultimately a sobering warning for those of us who could be seduced by celebrity.
This is a comedy with bite, a film that delights in sharp dialogue and conflicted characters. This is an ensemble movie, stuffed full of star-turns, which create larger-than-life characters which, nevertheless, remain recognisable as people – real people rather than caricatures.
William H Macy, one of the great character actors of the 21st century, is the put-upon everyman, the director of a high profile movie which is running out of time and money when they arrive in small town USA. It seems that they had to leave the previous location because it lacked the necessary Old Mill required for the title of the film but the real reason, it turns out, is because the film’s star Bob Barrenger, played with easy charm by Alec Baldwin, has a weakness for teenage girls.
Unaware of Barrenger’s predatory predilections the town embraces the Hollywood film crew with open arms and the Mayor is ready to throw a banquet in their honour. The one person who doesn’t succumb to the Hollywood charm offensive is the owner of the local bookstore played with wry amusement by Mamet’s real-life partner Rebecca Pidgeon.
She strikes up a friendship with the film’s stressed screenwriter, an amazingly diffident Philip Seymour Hoffman, who finds sanctuary in the peace and quiet of her shop and in her company. As the rewrites pile up and the madness of film-making threatens to destroy what remains of his sanity, he seeks her quiet advice and together they find a way to stitch together the demands of the plot and the film’s locations.
Although this is a satire, Mamet clearly has a lot of love for his characters and they all emerge with a degree of dignity. It’s a brilliantly entertaining film that has a wonderful way with words which is rarely seen in modern movies. Mamet even manages a Some Like It Hot style classic closing line which will have you chuckling through the final credits. Real-life film-making may be not quite as chaotic as this but you get the distinct impression from Mamet’s keenly observed screenplay that it’s not that far off. Indeed, the one message that comes through this fantastic cinematic confection is that nothing is more important than the movie – just ask the poor props guy trying to get away to be with his wife who has gone into labour. A total gem.