On Monday I went to a screening of Ethan Hawke‘s new old movie, The Hottest State, which is based on his novel of the same name. William (Mark Webber) is a fledgling young actor who falls for a quiet, reserved girl named Sarah (played by Catalina Sandino Moreno) and the movie chronicles the rapid growth and equally rapid decline of their love affair.
I was wary about seeing it, I mean, we all know how disastrous the writer/director/actor thing can be–let alone doing the writer/director/actor thing when you’re an actor adapting your own novel. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie–although it seemed very close to the edge of being too self-aware and overly pretentious, it only teetered on that line, never quite spilling over into eye-roll inducing dialog. In fact, there were some pretty genius moments in the film.
I loved Mark Webber in this film. He’s one of those actors I love, but never really remember why or how I know who he is. With the exception of The Boiler Room, I’ve never actually seen him in another film.
I think he first really came to my attention when I was in college and he was starring in a version of American Buffalo at the Atlantic Theater Company with William H. Macy. I didn’t actually SEE the revival, I just saw this interview of him on Charlie Rose and I instantly became obsessed. He has some crazy background, having grown up in Philadelphia with his mom, living in homeless shelters. He and his mother were and continue to be outspoken advocates of the homeless.
However, I do have to wonder if Ethan Hawke was thinking, “Where can I find a shaggy, disheveled blond dude to me to play the ‘not me’ in this story I wrote about ‘not me’?” when he was casting this film. Eh, whatever works, man.
Anyway, I do recommend checking out the movie, which is getting released in NY and LA this Friday. There’s something about it that just rings true and honest about this story about two young lovers who start their relationship as intensely as they end it. Laura Linney is funny (although slightly heavy handed) as William’s mom, but sadly Michelle Williams is wasted as she once again plays the town slut with the heart of gold. The soundtrack is excellent (Bright Eyes, Cat Power, etc etc) and playing “spot the streets in Williamsburg” might provide you some mild amusement throughout the film.
Here’s the trailer:
And here’s that Charlie Rose interview with Mark Webber circa 2000: