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Movie Review: The Hottest State

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Remember being young and in total desperate I’m going to die without you love? That exact and exquisite pain is what The Hottest State, Ethan Hawke’s film based on his first novel (out in the 1990’s) is all about. Hawke produced and directed the film that meanders its way through present day, 1970’s flashbacks, music sequences, and hot sex scenes through the eyes of William Harding, a sensitive and emotional twenty-one year old actor trying to make his mark in New York City. The film follows the weeks, that’s right only weeks, that William meets and fall in love with beautiful if not slightly frigid singer/songwriter Sarah and hence has his heart broken. I’m not spoiling anything here- Hawke gives it away in the first minutes of the film - “within a year I would be left heartbroken” a narration tells us. Despite knowing this, we still go on William’s journey through mad, crazy, all-consuming lust and love to all-consuming sadness, anger, and heartbreak. Easily recognizable.

The true magic of this film was in the performance by Mark Webber as William. His raw emotions were both believable and identifiable, and I’m not quite sure why he isn’t more famous, because this kid is good, he basically carried the film. Laura Linney plays his Texas born, tell it like it is mother with great pieces of advice to get William out of his funk like “read more.” His father Vince, comes to us in flashbacks as a worn out looking Ethan Hawke and Sarah the girl that consumes every thought in his head is played by Catalina Sandino Moreno. The Hottest State is about a young man’s journey through heartbreak- not just his heartbreak with Sarah, but the heartbreak he experienced from his father at a young age. Our hero must find a way to mend both.

I wanted to hate this movie because I usually hate celebrity turned novelist types, and I was sure Ethan Hawke would be too wordy/intellectual or preachy for his own good. But the truth was I thought it was great, and any parts that had that self-important business ready to seep out were quieted by the film’s beautiful soundtrack which was written entirely by Jesse Harris and performed by the likes of Willie Nelson, M. Ward, Norah Jones, Cat Power and Emmylou Harris.

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If you can’t see the film, the soundtrack is an absolute must.

Photo courtesy of ioncinema