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With: Mark Webber, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Laura Linney, Michelle Williams, Frank Whaley, Josh Zuckerman, Ethan Hawke Sonia Braga, Jesse Harris, Daniel Ross, Anne Clarke
Written by: Ethan Hawke, based on his own novel
Directed by: Ethan Hawke
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and language
Running Time: 117
Date: 09/02/2006

The Hottest State (2007)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Texas Strangers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Ethan Hawke adapts his own 1996 semi-autobiographical novel and directs this new movie (his follow-up to Chelsea Walls), which is by turns sweet and misguided. A young actor, William Harding (Mark Webber), leaves Texas and a turbulent family life for the glamour of New York. There, he meets budding singer Sarah (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and they hit it off. Rather than a meet-cute episode, however, The Hottest State depicts the highs and lows of a real relationship. The couple carefully maneuvers its way into sex, and wrestles with moving in together, how much time to spend together and how much freedom to allow each other. Sarah seems skittish from past relationships and William is damaged by his lack of a father (he doesn't understand how to be with women). Hawke appears in a rather touching scene as William's pa, reunited for a brief, bitter talk. In other scenes the dialogue comes off as too carefully planned and too precious, and Webber's overly physical performance doesn't seem to match the character's insecurity. Laura Linney has a couple of very good scenes as William's mother, and Michelle Williams is potent in a small role as an ex-girlfriend. Frank Whaley barely appears in one scene, and director Richard Linklater can be seen in a party sequence talking about John Wayne. The soundtrack, full of Willie Nelson tunes and other good stuff, is very effective.

DVD Details: THINKFilm's DVD comes with a commentary track by Ethan Hawke and several crew members, as well as his 1994 short film, Straight to One (22 minutes). It comes with a trailer for the superb Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, also starring Ethan Hawke, as well as other trailers.

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