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The Hottest State

16 customer reviews

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(Dec 04, 2007)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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. Fennessy

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Sonia Braga, Daniel Ross, Jesse Harris, Mark Webber, Catalina Sandino Moreno
  • Directors: Ethan Hawke
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • DVD Release Date: December 4, 2007
  • Run Time: 117 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000URDE8S
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,952 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Himmelreich on February 6, 2008
Format: DVD
This is one of my favorite movies. The cast is stellar and it has a great soundtrack. Beyond that, it is one of the most "real" love stories I have ever seen in a movie. You can very easily see yourself in the shoes of the characters.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Hunter on December 20, 2007
Format: DVD
In spite of critics reviews, I loved this film from start to finish. Wonderfully shot, delicately scripted, better than you'd really expect. The soundtrack is so deftly placed, it's as if it where a third character. It's a picture of a life in fractured state, but oh, how beautiful.

It's a near perfect blend of self-indulgence with a sense of humility. I was truly glad I saw this film, after months of ignoring and thinking that I would not like it.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jasun Horsley on December 10, 2007
Format: DVD
Written and directed by Ethan Hawke, and based on Hawke's (I presume) autobiographical novel of the same name, The Hottest State is an intensely personal movie. Yet unlike, say, Woody Allen's autobiographical films (Annie Hall, Stardust Memories, Husbands and Wives), Hawke's personality doesn't flood his material. Hawke is quite casual about baring his soul to us, and audiences may not be aware how deeply he takes them into his psyche. But he holds nothing back.

The film recounts a brief, magical love affair between 20-year-old William (Mark Webber), Texas-born living in New York, and Sara (Catalina Sandino Moreno), a beautiful Mexican who has moved to the city to pursue her singing career. The film unfolds with an easy, natural spontaneity that is both engaging and faintly ominous (we know where it's heading because William informs us in voice-over). Working with his actors and crew, Hawke uses simple, unassuming brush strokes to communicate the joy and misery, and the complexity, of falling in love. William's trouble is that he has fallen in love with "a force of evil," which is to say, with unfathomable femininity.

The Hottest State shows the futility of romantic desire without ever opting for self-pity or easy cynicism. Hawke imbues the film with the wisdom and acceptance of a broken heart made stronger and freer by the breakage. Hawke's film gets at something universal, and cuts all the way to the bone. As a result, it may stir feelings we'd rather not have to deal with, ones we'd hoped we'd put to rest. I don't think I have ever seen a romantic film that manages to be this painful without being in the least bit sentimental. It's not so much about the sadness of watching a great love die, but about the horror and incomprehensibility of it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on November 25, 2009
Format: DVD
This film completely captures the search for perfect total love by youth. The boy, all of 20, meets "the one" who is supposed to be his true love. While portraying the adventure of falling for someone, it also covers the fear and naked exposure. What you get is the dialogue in the boy's mind about it in retrospect, as he views it heartbrokenly. OK, he is self-absorbed and quick to rage, as many reviewers criticize, but he is only 20 for heaven's sake - he will grow beyond it, which in many ways is the true message of the film. Life can be a terrible struggle at that age: sensitivities are extreme, experience lacks depth and hence offers little solace from pain, and childhood trauma casts a powerful shadow.

Mark Webber plays the role with great subtlety, though I think saying he is a new Brando goes a bit far. Much of his acting is in his body language and the atmosphere he brings with him, which are the marks of true talent. The girl is played expertly by Moreno. Of course, her agenda differs from his and she is unwilling to fulfill the role he has created for her in his mind. (After all, you only want what you cannot really get as a youth.) She is at turns manipulative, caring, vulnerable, beautiful, plain, fascinating, and dull. Linney is great in her cameos as the struggling mother who made some poor choices. Braga's cameo as a manipulative alcoholic mother is pitch perfect.

This is not an easy film to watch, but it rang very very true for me. Warmly recommended.
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Format: DVD
I like Ethan Hawke, and respect that he wrote a novel and directed the film, but The Hottest State just isn't very good. The main problem is that the protagonist, a thinnly veiled younger version of Ethan Hawke, has such pretentious dialogue that it is unwatchable. Poor Mark Webber. He grew up homeless, and then he gets the lead in a movie, but it turns out to be a doomed vanity project by Ethan Hawke. William Harding (Mark Webber) thinks he is clever and profound but he's neither. He is an actor who falls in love with Sarah (Catalina Sandino Moreno), a wannabe singer, who breaks his heart. If the author and director, Mr. Hawke, intends you to somehow be moved, then he has sorely miscalculated. How often must we watch the scene where the heartbroken suitor leaves countless phone messages, each one more desperate and stupid than the last? Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist started out with that scene, but at least it went somewhere, and the banter between Nick and Norah was infinitely more entertaining.

Catalina Sandino Moreno as Sarah was likeable enough, but the problem was the writing and directing, for which Ethan Hawke was solely responsible. On the other hand, there was a lot of good music, written by Jesse Harris, who also played a member of Sarah's band. It starts off with a song by Willie Nelson, written by Jesse Harris, and continues with lots of songs by Mr. Harris performed by either himself, Brad Mehldau, Norah Jones, The Black Keys, Leslie Feist, Emmylou Harris, Cat Power, Bright Eyes, M. Ward, or Tony Scherr. Sarah's singing is dubbed in by Rosario Ortega. Jesse Harris is the guy who wrote "Don't Know Why" for Norah Jones. The first time I saw him perform I was under whelmed, but then I expected a lot because that song he wrote for Miss Jones was phenomenal.
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