A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that one character is attracted to underage girls and has sex with a girl who, despite clear indications that she approached him, is too young to legally consent to sex. There are other sexual references, including a character who takes off all her clothes as a way to seduce another character and a discussion about whether Claire will do a nude scene, as provided in her contract. Characters drink and smoke and use strong language. Many make moral compromises that parents will want to discuss with teens who see the movie.
What's the story?
STATE AND MAIN begins as director Walt Price (William H. Macy) and his film crew arrive in Waterford, New Hampshire. Waterford is a last minute substitution for another town which did not work out, partly for a reason that Price will only reveal in a whisper. They've come to Waterford for the town's historic old mill, which is perfect for an important scene. The cast and crew take over the town's small hotel, then discover that the old mill burned down. Price tells screenwriter Joe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to rewrite the scene. The stunned look on White's face is explained as the camera pulls back to reveal the title of the movie: The Old Mill. Meanwhile, Price and the movie's producer, Marty (David Paymer), have to cope with charming the town's mayor into giving them a permit to shoot on Main Street, persuading starlet Claire (Sarah Jessica Parker) to do a nude scene, and keeping Hollywood hunk Bob (Alec Baldwin) away from underage girls. Joe, beguiled by local bookstore owner Ann (Rebecca Pidgeon), must keep producing rewrites on demand. And the cinematographer has to figure out a way to shoot around the antique stained-glass window in the town's historic firehouse.
Is it any good?
Writer/director David Mamet clearly relishes the chance to skewer some of the people he has met on his previous movies, but it is done with a light, even romantic, touch. In one of the movie's funniest scenes, Mamet turns the most well-established conventions of farce upside down as, for once, a character behaves sensibly and trusts another character instead of believing the circumstantial evidence. Then, just to make sure we don't take anything for granted, he has another character do the same thing and be completely wrong.
Mamet does not make this a story of city slickers taking advantage of country yokels or of crafty country people triumphing over the corrupt city folks. Both sides have a range of characters with a range of motivations and moral compasses. Joe keeps saying that his movie is about purity and second chances. So is this one, with a lulu of a second chance for one character who really needs it. Consistent with Mamet's duality throughout the movie, other characters who do not deserve second chances get them, but those are probably just "a second chance to make the same mistake again."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the characters' priorities and choices. Walt and Marty just want to make the movie, and will do anything to get it done. White is trying to keep his story's integrity (and his own). Claire takes what appears to be a moral stance, but is willing to back down for more money. Another character backs down from an apparently moral stance for money and a chance at power. White is given a choice between his honor and his career -- what helps him decide? Families might want to talk about some of the characters' names. Why is the director named "Price?" Why does the mayor have the same name (George Bailey) as the Jimmy Stewart character in "It's a Wonderful Life?" What about the names "White" and "Black?"
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