State and Main is a deliciously written and acted satire about a Hollywood film crew invading the small town of Waterford, Vermont to prep a film shoot. Director David Mamet's screenplay cleverly juggles a myriad of movie and townsfolk characters and sets up a variety of gags, most with winning payoffs (only one about a stained glass window isn't properly concluded).Top amongst the cast are William H Macy as the film's director, who alternates between cajoling and bullying according to the status of his audience; and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, as the sensitive playwright (re-)writing his first movie. Hoffman stole scenes in Almost Famous and The Talented Mr Ripley, and is terrific here as the straight man who anchors the film. Alec Baldwin and Sarah Jessica Parker are the stars of the film-within-a-film. He can't keep his hands off under-age girls ("everybody needs a hobby"), while she's found religion and can no longer countenance going topless for her "art".
Film-making is fertile ground for film comedy. By confining his story to location pre-production, Mamet differentiates State and Main from other Hollywood making-of or insider comedies, and also from films about non-Hollywood or independent film-making (Shadow of the Vampire or Living in Oblivion). The only actors in the film-within-a-film we get to know are the two stars, but there's enough going on amongst the crew and the townsfolk to prevent this being a limitation.Theodore Shapiro's bouncy score and Barbara Tulliver's editing keep the pace swift, although the film slackens a little towards the end. The jokes continue during - and over - the credits, so it's worth sticking around till the very end.