The Hottest State

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Hottest State Movie Poster Image
Moody relationship drama is best for adults.
  • R
  • 2007
  • 116 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Lovers quarrel, sometimes violently (throwing things and screaming at each other, but no hitting). William's behavior at some points borders on stalking. Parents abandon their children, fight in front of them, and harp on them in cruel, unsympathetic ways. Plenty of drinking and references to casual sex.

Violence

William's parents fight bitterly in front of him as a child; later, William upends a table when he's angry at Sara. Some door-slamming, shoving, and lots of yelling.

Sex

Plenty of sex and sex talk throughout (though the subject is handled quite reverentially, not crudely). Couples make out and make love. One scene shows both the main characters disrobing, with Sara totally naked from the front -- though the moment doesn't last too long -- and William from the back. There are also scenes in which William straddles Sara naked, plus lots of heaving and clutching at each other and one scene where a belt is unbuckled before an implied sex act. Sara tells a detailed story about an ex-boyfriend's sexual betrayal.

Language

Numerous uses of "f--k" in sexual as well as angry contexts, as well as "s--t" and "bitch."

Consumerism

Shots of cigarette packs and a beer bottle with their labels showing. Many mentions of Tennessee Williams and his plays.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of drinking and smoking -- beer seems to be the social lubricant of choice. Some scenes show the lead characters clearly inebriated.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although the protagonists in Ethan Hawke's romantic drama are barely out of their teens -- which could intrigue some young viewers -- the movie tackles very adult themes from beginning to end, including love, sex, and heartbreak. Ultimately, it's an often-bleak portrait that may be disturbing to tweens and younger teens. The parents are deeply flawed, even cold; the lovers are confused and sometimes hurtful (even bordering on violent, though there's no hitting). Expect plenty of four-letter words, sex scenes (though they're fairly tastefully shot), and even brief full-frontal female nudity.

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What's the story?

In this surprisingly moving drama based on his novel of the same name, Ethan Hawke renders a painfully realistic picture of love and heartache. William Harding (Mark Webber) is a twentysomething New York City actor who likes to talk and looks longingly at the neighbors as they make out on the stoop. William may have slept with plenty of women, but he's still besotted with the idea of how love begins because his own parents met in a storybook way (though their marriage ended bitterly): His mother (Laura Linney) fell in love with the way his father (played by Hawke) told a joke. Then William meets Sara Garcia (Catalina Sandino Moreno), a college dropout-turned-musician. Instantly, they're entwined; after just four days, "there were flowers in [his] apartment and hummus in [his] refrigerator." But after a magical week in Mexico, where they almost elope, Sara pulls away, taking William's heart with her.

Is it any good?

The film feels somewhat slack in its early stages, meandering like it has all the time in the world. It's also far too stylized; like William, it's a little too deliberately unkempt. The scenes in which William and Sara dance around each other, trying to figure out whether they should plunge ahead, are labored by actorly dialogue, though they pull it off with aplomb. (Other lines feel much more genuine, as when William says of Sara, "She was human. The most human person I'd ever met, and that was sexy.") Hawke proves fairly effective at capturing the giddiness of falling in love, but he really finds his groove when the relationship abruptly falls apart and emotions get messy. He teases achingly truthful performances out of both leads (in the supporting cast, Michelle Williams is excellent as William's sometime-girlfriend). Viewers feel awkward sympathy for William, who just can't let go, and for Sara, too, who realizes she's not ready for intimacy -- at least, not the kind that William, who says he "loved every thought she ever had," is offering. When the film metamorphoses from a simple love-gone-awry piece into a full-bodied story and a statement on how our parents' marriage influences -- no, steers -- our own relationships, it finally feels satisfying.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the film's take on falling in and out of love. Is it really that messy and problematic? Or do these overly complicated beginnings (and endings) just happen in movies? If so, why is love so heightened and exaggerated in the media? Does the picture that the media paints of love influence our real-life expectations? How so?

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