State and Main

"The only second chance I know is the chance to make the same mistake twice."

Small town America is visited by the big time film industry when a crew, desperately seeking a backwater town with a rustic water mill, unexpectedly invades Waterford, Vermont, after enticing the local mayor and securing an open invitation and permit. This place would seem to fit the bill. Look out, Waterford! The cell phones are flying every which way! There are, as is wont with an unpredictable enclave of creative types, unseen problems hovering in the air. The renowned male star Bob Barrenger (Alec Baldwin), with an avid appetite for alcohol beverage and underage girls, has recently stirred up sufficient dust at the original shooting location that producers were forced to make a premature departure. And that's just for starters.

The cast that shows up is impressive as is the cast playing the characters who are not even in the cast. If you think that's confusing, get a glimpse of Waterford. The antics have only just begun when the sleepy town is jolted awake with the quick-fire dialogue and ant-like activities of their new and temporary residents. As the actors flit by the screen, so do the quick-talking director, iron-willed producer, and malleable (albeit extremely talented) screenwriter. The only one remaining capable of resolutely and relaxedly viewing the madness of the ongoing proceedings with a certain distanced reserve is the town bookseller, Ann Black (Rebecca Pidgeon). Until, that is, she herself becomes involved.

An accident at State and Main seems to bring life to a standstill when Carla Taylor (Julia Stiles), a local teenage girl turns out to be involved in the incident (in more ways than one). But, at this point, the production staff still isn't aware of the even bigger technical problem (surprise!) awaiting them: a small oversight by the location scout proves to present them with yet another insurmountable problem (resulting from a fire 20 years earlier). But, if you know film people, you can imagine they'll do their best to find a way out of or around any situation that pops up. Faced with new problems each and every day on a shoot, nothing really seems insurmountable to them in the end. Yes, folks, film people are capable of anything.

And the film people are (all over the place) in abundance: Besides the likes of Baldwin, Pidgeon, and Stiles are William H. Macy, Charles Durning, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Patti Lupone, Sarah Jessica Parker, Clark Gregg, and David Paymer. What a line up.

Writer David Mamet, long established as a man of sharp and memorable words has dished up another delight. Director Mamet, with an impressive list of credits (in varying degrees of success) behind him, has served this dish up deliciously. A charming and humorous tableau of life disturbed in a sleepy town is wonderfully witty and should appeal to all types, ages, and tastes; well worth a visit; take the entire family. Invite the mayor and his wife!

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett