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Thoughts on 'State of Play' . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Monday, April 27, 2009

Worth Full-Price, Matinee or Rental: Matinee or rental. 'State of Play' is a twisty, intelligent film that is solidly constructed and ideal for a matinee or a rental, and only misses full price because it is mostly very good and only fleetingly great.

Will I Own It On DVD: No. I enjoyed 'Play,' and was glad to see it, but I doubt I will re-visit this more than one more time, which doesn't justify the cost of a DVD or Blu Ray purchase.

1) 'State of Play' was apparently based on a British TV mini-series, and I bet that the television format actually suited the material a little bit better. This is because the story is somewhat convuluted, and there are a lot of moving parts which could play out more lesuirely on television over a six-hour running time versus the just over two hours that the movie takes. This would also benefit the character depth of the film as several interesting subplots are hinted at in the movie, but never fully realized likely due to running time (and I very rarely ask for a longer running time).

2) The film's plot concerns a newspaper reporter (Russell Crowe), his old college roommate now turned U.S. Congressman (Ben Affleck), a sex scandal, private defense contractors, new media outlets, theft and murder and the connections which might be hiding among these various factors.

3) Russell Crowe anchors this film extremely well even though he's given a lot of fine support from an excellent ensemble cast. Crowe looks bloated and slovenly and hairy, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt that his jowls were formed for his old-school journalist character versus his own laziness about getting in shape. Regardless, he is far better here than in last year's 'Body of Lies' as he uses his dogged skills to unravel the mystery and get the story printed.

4) As I mentioned, the rest of the cast is uniformly stellar with a group that includes Helen Mirren, Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman, Robyn Wright Penn, Jeff Daniels and Ben Affleck. The most surprisingly good job was turned in by McAdams who more than held her own opposite Crowe. If there was a weak link, it was Affleck who wasn't terrible, however, I expected more as I really thought he would nail his role as a politician. Hell, he looks like a politician, and while Affleck does settle into the role as the running time wears on, he is initially too light for the action around him.

5) As much as anything, 'State of Play' is about the death knell sounding for many newspapers around the country as new formats like blogs and Twitter and other outlets take away slices of the pie. I found it somewhat depressing to watch onscreen, although the filmmakers capture it well and drive home the point and the financial pressures to stay afloat in this brave new media world.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by 'State of Play' as it was an engaging, solid thriller with reasonable depth and I hope it does well enough at the box office so these kinds of films will continue to share space with comic book adaptations and Hannah Montanna.



  1. JLee Says:
  2. I ALMOST went to see this over the weekend, but it just didn't grab me. However, I can relate to point 5, so that makes it a bit more interesting. Maybe a rental later. The box office is kinda lame these days. I did rent a cool quirky movie called "Choke" with Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Houston you may want to check out.

  3. And here I thought there was nothing worth seeing in theaters right now. Maybe I just need to pay closer attention.

    I finally got around to watching The Wrestler this weekend. I don't know what's gotten into Marisa Tomei, but cross your fingers that she continues to accept roles where she spends half her screen time naked.

  4. Jlee - That was exactly how I felt, and that's why I was so impressed because I figured it was would be OK, but nothing exciting. I liked it much more than I anticipated. And I know about 'Choke' and was considering a rental . . . thanks for the recommendation.

    Native Minnow - It feels out of place as we're quickly heading to summer movie season, which is another reason I enjoyed this one quite a bit. As for 'The Wrestler,' I thought Tomei was great and looked even better. She has just gotten sexier as she gets older as I didn't find her overly attractive back in the day.

  5. BostonPobble Says:
  6. I will see anything with Helen Mirren in it. As for Affleck, I was around a lot of professional theatre people in CO when he first really came into the public light and we were all interested to see what he would become and where he would go. There's something about him that still makes me think there's some untapped depth of talent there but, the longer I wait for it, the less sure I am.

  7. Bostonpobble - Mirren is always worth watching. I happen to like Affleck (excellent article on him in last month's Esquire as an FYI) and he does have some talent and seems to be a reasonble person who can laugh at himself. 'Gone Baby Gone' was an excellent movie and he directed it his first time out of the gate. So, I think I thought he had evened out again and was a little disappointed with his work in 'Play' even though it wasn't terrible by any stretch.

  8. Boxer Says:
  9. I had The Nephew over to my house on Saturday so my Sister and older Nephew could see this... they liked it and based on your review, I'll move it to the top of my list.

    I truly enjoy your movie reviews.

  10. Heff Says:
  11. Did someone say "Marisa Tomei naked ?!?"

  12. Miss Ash Says:
  13. Forget this movie, what is going on with your script???

  14. Linda Says:
  15. I thought this was the best performance we've seen from Crowe in a while. I too found the attention to the demise of print media to be rather sad. A decent thriller that was satisfying enough for the big screen and will be just as good in DVD. Nice review!

  16. Boxer - Thanks, and I think 'Play' is one of the better things you could see right now in the theater. It's not phenomenal, but I found it very satisfying.

    Heff - Go rent 'The Wrestler' - don't wait for DISH. Ha. It is a great film & yes, Tomei is naked.

    Miss Ash - I wish I knew. Ha. Actually, I need to check in with one guy, and it might be getting 'coverage' at an agency in the near future which could mean virtually anything. Regardless, it never happens fast enough, eh?

    Linda - I agree as 'Play' will be just fine on DVD. The print media decline was sad for me as well in this film as I thought it did an excellent job of showing that side.

  17. Gypsy Says:
  18. Russell does look particularly slovenly next to the immaculately groomed Affleck but then he always looks like a bit of a slob in most of his movies.....the exception being Gladiator where I thought he looked HOT. Great actor though.

    This sounds like it would be a good book with all the intrigue and interwoven plots and characters.

    Great review as always B.


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