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Until recently writer sometimes director David Mamet had been known for his incredible dialogue and crime related stories. If one was to look down his long list of writing credits you would see such films as The Untouchables, Hoffa and Glen Garry Glenn Ross. In recent years he's shifted his focus somewhat with writing more comedic stories such as 1997's Wag the Dog and now State and Main. State and Main is a witty often satirical look at a Hollywood movie crew making a movie in small town USA. While State and Main wasn't given a very big theatrical push, it's an excellent film that shouldn't be overlooked. Now New Line Home Video releases State and Main on DVD.

State and Main
Movie
During high school it's pretty much a given that in some class you'll be shown a movie. Over the course of my high school career I saw countless movies in the class room most of which were boring or  uninteresting adaptations of whatever novel or Shakespeare play we were studying at the time.  If your were lucky you might find one or two movies during this period that your teacher would have taken a chance on and that would further expand your love for film as an art form. This is what happened to me with a David Mamet film entitled Wag The Dog, a film that showed the creation of a War in order to hide a secret that could damage a political campaign..  

Without going into too much detail Wag The Dog introduced me to the word of satirical and adult comedy and in some ways reviewing films. The differences between the comedy I had been exposed to before this and this movie was that the jokes weren't a visual punch line but an oral one.  Instead of a guy walking into a wall or tripping and falling I had to listen and focus on the dialogue.

When the crew of a Hollywood film entitled The Old Mill is asked to leave it's current location, they have to pack up shop and move the production. The only problem is they are out of money, so when they find a location that has two of the main story elements already built they decide to head to Waterford, Vermont. Meanwhile in Waterford, Vermont. The townsfolk are simple every day people who hang out at the local diner and where everyone knows everyone else by name. The local politician Doug McKenzie (Clark Gregg) is lobbying the townsfolk for a new traffic light for main street. Ann (Rebecca Pidgeon) is staging a play called Trials of the Heart and the local teen queen Carla (Julia Stiles) is happy serving up burgers and drinks in her father's restaurant.   Everything is perfect until director Walt Price (William H. Macy) and the rest of his Hollywood crew take over the town. The writer Joseph Turner White  (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), the producer Marty (David Paymer), Bob Berrenger (Alec Baldwin) the star with a passion for young girls and the female lead Claire (Sarah Jessica Parker).

As soon as they arrive problems start to occur as they learn that Old Mill burned down as part of a string of fires back in the 60s. The cinematographer is only able to get an important tracking shot if he knocks out a historical window at a fire hall. Claire suddenly finds religion and suddenly won't do her nude scene despite the fact that she agreed to do it in her contract. Bob takes an unhealthy interest in Carla and Joe the writer suddenly has to figure out the deeper meaning of his script as the Old Mill scene is out. Meanwhile Doug the politician has shifted gears and is now trying to figure out a way to get more money out of the production.

It's not all problems though as love forms between Joe the writer and Ann a local shopkeeper who is a big fan of Joe's play Anguish.

Writer/Director David Mamet has assembled an excellent cast for State and Main. Since it's an ensemble piece it's important that every person not only work well individually but also as part of the whole. And for the most part that's what we have here. Excellent performances are given by Alec Baldwin as Bob an aging star with a passion for underage girls. Baldwin who can currently seen reciting some of the cheesiest dialogue as James Doolittle in Pearl Harbor is much better here. Sarah Jessica Parker from TV's Sex and The City has a small but powerful role as Claire a hot Hollywood starlet whose breasts people can draw from memory but who won't take her shirt of for the picture. Teen star Julia Stiles isn't given much to do here and those who are looking to see this movie just for her will be disappointed though she is good in the small role she is given.  The always excellent Phillip Seymour Hoffman brings an innocence to his portrayal of  Joe White the writer who is naive in the ways of Hollywood.  An often contributor to Paul Thomas Anderson's movies Seymour Hoffman is a star to watch as he always gives solid performances. William H Macy who appeared in Fargo and as Dr Morgenstern on ER and who is another frequent contributor to both Mamet and PTA's films is excellent as the director Walt Price who tries to keep everything from falling apart before his eyes. Also appearing are Charles Durning, Mamet's wife Rebecca Pidgeon, Ricky Jay and David Paymer.

It's an interesting look at the movie making process where everything that can go wrong does and then some.

State and Main
Video
When you see the words New Line Home Video on the package of a DVD you know your in for a quality video presentation. Whether it's a major release such as Magnolia or a smaller release such as Body Shots, New Line puts a consistent effort into all of their releases. While State and Main wasn't one of their bigger titles in the past year they treated the transfer as if it was with this 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer.

Detail and sharpness are excellent with the interiors accurately recreating small town America with the exteriors looking very picturesque. The colors are strong and detailed especially in the outdoor scenes. There was a trace amount of edge enhancement but not enough to truly distract me from the overall beauty of the image. There are a couple of minor print flaws but those were even less noticeable then the edge enhancement. Overall another excellent transfer from the guys at New Line. 

Also included is a full screen version of the film.

Audio
State and Main like most New Line discs features a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. While State and Main is for the most part a dialogue driven comedy when the action picks up the sound field expands. Dialogue is placed firmly in the center channel and is easy to understand.  The score is well presented and for the most part stays in the front 3 channels. Nothing to write home about here in the sound department but since it does accurately recreate the theatrical experience we can't fault New Line here. This isn't really a movie that lends itself to a fancy sound mix. 

Also available is a Dolby Digital 2.0 track for those without 5.1 receivers

State and Main
Extras
New Line has always been known for being good with providing their films with special features. Now with the upcoming launch of their new Infi-film line of discs they seem to be taking things further into the future of DVD then there already excellent Platinum Series. While State and Main isn't a platinum series disc it still features a couple interesting extras.

The main feature of the disc is the actors commentary track featuring Sarah Jessica Parker, David Paymer, Clark Gregg, Pati Lupone and the highlight of the track William H. Macy. While the majority of the actors featured on the track only have minor roles they still provide some interesting insight into working with David Mamet.  A somewhat entertaining commentary to go along with an excellent movie. I'm a tad disappointed that Mamet wasn't featured on the commentary as I would have loved to hear his thoughts on the making of the movie.

Next Up we have the theatrical trailer presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 1.85:1 widescreen. Bravo to New Line for constantly providing the trailers in their original aspect ratio and 5.1 sound whenever possible.

Rounding out the disc we have the usual set of cast and crew biographies. 

Overall
Overall a good but somewhat lacking set of extras for a movie that I would enjoyed having more extras for.

State and Main is a smart person's comedy, it doesn't relay on sight gags, the comedy presents itself in a more mature manner. If you enjoy a good comedy that doesn't dumb itself down for the audience then State and Main is for you. If your a fan of the movie already, be sure to pick up this disc. If your a fan of David Mamet's writing or directing be sure to pick up this disc. Give State and Main a shot, I'm glad I did or I would have missed out on a great film.  


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