Playwright, filmmaker and satirical dialogue savant David Mamet ruthlessly runs Hollywood through with a poison pen in "State and Main," a wickedly ironical and incisive industry lampoon about a film crew laying siege to a Vermont hamlet where they intend to shoot a pretentious period drama.
Leading the charge is a frenzied William H. Macy as the project's wry director, who can't even get a foot of film in the can until he schmoozes local officials, curbs his narcissistic star's (Alec Baldwin) predilection for underage girls, cajoles a nude scene out of his flaky starlet (Sarah Jessica Parker) and convinces his disenchanted purist of a rookie screenwriter (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to revamp pivotal scenes that were to take place in an old mill. This town doesn't have an old mill and Macy doesn't have the budget or the time to build one.
Did I mention the title of the movie they're making? It's called "The Old Mill."
Frustrated no end and seeking miracle inspiration, the neurotic, guileless writer finds solace in an peculiar flirtation with the proprietor of a local bookshop (Rebecca Pidgeon, Mamet's wife). But that just stirs up more trouble for the Hollywood interlopers when her jealous finance, the litigious local D.A., avenges himself by prosecuting Baldwin for bedding a local teenager (Julia Stiles).
(Baldwin pooh-poohs his carnal proclivity by declaring, with total sincerity, that "everybody needs a hobby.")
Blooming with Mamet's keenly trenchant banter, bristling with roguish industry gibes and aided by pitch-perfect performances from Macy and Hoffman, the comedy in "State and Main" peels like an onion -- with funnier, more mischievous ironies taking several scenes (or even the whole movie) to fully unfold.
But never one to just kid around, the writer-director also makes a shrewd underlying observation about how eagerly actors, writers and directors compromise themselves to crank out celluloid crap if it might get their hands on that brass ring of boffo box office.
"State and Main" is the first brilliantly biting showbiz satire of Hollywood's second century, and one of the genre's most droll and original entries. But to pay my own mocking homage to the industry's disposition for the unoriginal, pop-referential two minute pitch, let me describe in 25 words or less: You could say it's "The Player" goes to Bedford Falls. But that wouldn't begin to do this movie justice.