The Hottest State review

:. Director: Ethan Hawke
:. Starring: Mark Webber, Jesse Harris
:. Running Time: 1:57
:. Year: 2006
:. Country: USA

Based on an autobiographical novel by indie darling Ethan Hawke, The Hottest State chronicles the emotional journey of a young actor struggling with his first love in the city of New York.

Sporting a certain resemblance to Hawke - both playing his father and directing here - Mark Webber plays William, a young man who leaves Texas to take a chance at acting in the Big Apple. While he seems to have a good record sleeping with girls, he is still a kid when it comes to feelings.

From the moment he meets Sarah (Catalina Sandino Moreno of Maria Full Of Grace), William not only becomes passionate but also gets haunted by a sense of loss as she seems to fill an emotional void, resulting from the absence of his parents. William is addicted to Sarah and when their paths take different directions he turns into a stalker, until he finally makes peace with his past.

Knowing that Hawke is the writer/director here, you won't be surprised to see that The Hottest State has a strong artsy bohemian feel. This film looks like the logical continuation of his previous directorial effort, Chelsea Walls, as if he were zooming in on a couple who may have been residents of the Chelsea Hotel.

What's interesting is that, despite the fact that throughout the movie we slowly and discreetly witness his rise to fame, Hawke pulls no punches at portraying himself as an obsessive and somewhat pathetic human being. His point, as a writer, is to show us heartbreak from the male perspective, which is quite a rare theme on screen.

Hawke's approach as a director is both poetic and melancholic, sticking to the relationship between William and Sarah, while not much else going on in the background. The presence of a few household names such as Laura Linney, Sonia Braga and Hawke himself as satellite characters bring a brief and welcome sense of diversion from this suffocating love story while good dialogues bring a literary dimension to the ensemble.

This is a personal work with no ambition other than exorcising the past, and if you're into artsy films about artists, you should appreciate your visit to the Hottest State.

  Fred Thom

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