Passion gone cold fails to ignite this incomplete love story

The Hottest State

on August 24, 2007 by Kevin Courrier
If Before Sunrise and Before Sunset were about the indelible rewards derived from finding a soulmate, The Hottest State is about the agony of wrongly assuming you've got one. Ethan Hawke, who starred in the Before films and wrote and directed this one, can't seem to find an agreeable tone in which to make this subject engaging. Rather than bring out the farcical humor stewing in a doomed romance, Hawke gives us a movie that resembles spending two hours with bickering narcissists.

Based on an early Hawke novel, the story concerns William (Mark Webber), a young actor who arrives in New York from Texas, brimming with hope and anticipation. When he meets Sarah (Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace ), a stunningly beautiful singer-songwriter, he becomes obsessively smitten. Although the first few weeks are ripe with bliss and passion, before long their passion gives way to wintry bluster. When Sarah breaks off the relationship, William goes completely to pieces. He returns to Texas to visit his father (Hawke) and mother (Laura Linney), whose marriage also failed miserably, in order to find answers to his own life.

Unfortunately Webber is too colorless in the lead role. He becomes so grating, in fact, that William's grief gives way to petulant whining. Moreno also provides no clue as to what she finds appealing in William. We never really understand whether it's her innate independence, her fear or perhaps good sense that fuels her decision to leave him.

What Hawke can't yet do as a director, though, he makes up for as an actor. Although his screen time is limited, he provides the only emotional anchor in the movie. He brings out the nagging regret still latent in a man stung by his failings as a father. If the film had actually been about him, The Hottest State wouldn't have gotten so damn cold.
Distributor: ThinkFilm
Cast: Mark Webber, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Michelle Williams, Ethan Hawke and Laura Linney
Director/Screenwriter: Ethan Hawke
Producers: Alexis Alexanian and Yukie Kito
Genre: Drama
Rating: R for sexual content and language
Running time: 117 min.
Release date: August 24 2007 NY
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