In a sleepy little New England town, a Hollywood movie is being made about the purity of sleepy little New England towns. William Macy's Walt Price is the director, and if he can just 1) convince his leading lady (Sarah Jessica Parker) to bare her breasts, as per her contract, and 2) keep his leading man (Alec Baldwin) from mounting anything 14 years of age or under, he may be able to pay off that ranch in Montana. Oh, there's one other teensy-weensy problem: He's going to have to shoot a movie called The Old Mill in a town that, it turns out, has no old mill. "Get me rewrite," he shouts, and I wish that writer-director David Mamet had done the same. State and Main, which bills itself as "part screwball comedy, part showbiz satire," isn't much of either. Mamet's turned all kinds of businesses into show business in the past, but he seems lost at the intersection of Hollywood and Bedford Falls. The movie has no bite, and not much of a pulse. Not what you expect from Mamet, to say the least. The thing is, it hardly seems like a Mamet movie at all. It doesn't have his verbal rhythms, his shell-game plot contrivances. What did he think he was up to? A once-over-lightly satire à la Preston Sturges? If so, he needed to pump more air into his dialogue and pick up the pace. (The movie's trailer, as so often happens, is perfectly paced.) The big joke is supposed to be that the good citizens of Waterford know as much about Hollywood movies as the Hollywoodians. They read the trade papers and discuss per-screen averages down at the corner café. But Mamet doesn't do much with this, just works it for not-quite-laughable laughs. As for the Hollywoodians, they're a ruder, cruder lot, willing to do anything for a buck except buck the system. Only Philip Seymour Hoffman's Joe, a playwright-turned-screenwriter, holds on to his integrity--a stand-in, no doubt, for a certain playwright-turned-screenwriter/director.
And does Mamet hold on to his integrity? Not with all the "tit" jokes I had to sit through, nor with David Paymer's stereotypical portrayal of a Hollywood producer. "You cheap little hebe," one of the locals says to him. Sturges it ain't.