The Hottest State
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Days before his 21st birthday, William, a young actor, meets Sara, a seductive singer/songwriter. William quickly falls madly in love with Sara and embarks on a journey that takes him from a Lower East Side tenement to a Mexican hotel room and through the emotional extremities of passion, rage, and need. Yearning for someone to love him back, William's journey forces him to come to terms with his own past and the father he barely knows.
At first glance, Ethan Hawke's follow-up to Chelsea Walls is the ballad of a self-absorbed actor and an enigmatic singer. Below the surface, things are more complicated. An adaptation of his 1996 novel, The Hottest State feels more like an exorcism than a love story. Twenty-year-old William (Mark Webber, Broken Flowers), a Texan based in New York, falls for Sarah (Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace) moments after meeting her. In an instant, they've shacked up together, but she refuses to sleep with him. When he lands a job in Mexico, she agrees to come along, and they finally consummate their relationship. After that, though, she starts to withdraw. The more she moves away, the more desperate William becomes. As depictions of young love go, this one is more painful to watch than most, not because the acting is bad--the cast includes Hawke as William's father, Laura Linney as his mother, and Sonia Braga as Sarah's mother--but because a little William goes a long way. Aside from his anger control issues, he never stops talking. The entire story feels heavily autobiographical, down to William bragging to Sarah that he's a great actor. Assuming the young Hawke was just as boorish, the unvarnished honesty of his portrayal is to be commended. No doubt the writing of the book and directing of the film has helped him to move on, but that doesn't make The Hottest State comfortable viewing--though Jesse Harris's tuneful soundtrack helps to smooth the way. --Kathleen C. FennessySee all Editorial Reviews
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