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The Hottest State

About.com Rating 2.5 Star Rating


The Hottest State

Catalina Sandino Moreno in a scene from "The Hottest State."

Catalina Sandino Moreno is lovely. Kudos to Ethan Hawke for giving Moreno her first starring role after her Academy Award nominated performance in Maria Full of Grace. She doesn't play an immigrant -- a fast food worker like in Richard Linklater's Fast Food Nation or a nanny like in Walter Salles' segment of Paris , Je t'aime. Instead, she's the girl, the light of the boy's life, the heart breaker. She does it wonderfully well.
Fans can look forward to seeing lots more of the young actress from Colombia in the future. Moreno has near top billing in two major upcoming productions: Mike Newell's adaptation of the Gabriel García Márquez novel Love in the Time of Cholera and Soderbergh's Guerilla. For now, however, it's a simple pleasure to watch her face in Ethan Hawke's The Hottest State, the director's adaptation of his own first novel.

The young lovers in Mexico in a scene from "The Hottest State."

Sarah Garcia (Moreno) has dreams. She's new to the big city, New York, seeking her first taste of independence. She wants to be a singer. She sings in a club. She wears a beret, a variety of dresses, an adorable winter coat. Somewhere along the way, Sarah meets a boy, William Harding (Mark Webber), an aspiring actor, a dreamer, a hopeless romantic. Unfortunately, The Hottest State is the boy's self-indulgent story.
It's one hundred percent understandable why young William falls hard for Sarah. Their early scenes together--from meeting in a bar, to a week long, sex-filled, romantic adventure in Mexico--are charming. First love, young love, the throws of passion: Hawke captures the feeling. It's when the two fall out of love that the tedium takes hold.

William yearns and he suffers. He won't accept the end of their relationship, but finds it necessary to whine, complain, and beg for another chance. He grates on Sarah's nerves. The distraught boy grates on the nerves of his mother (Laura Linney). He even grates on his ex-girlfriend's nerves (Michelle Williams in a small supporting role) who is kind enough to offer him some relief. If you haven't guessed, he grates on the audience's nerves, too.

In his state of excessive desperation, William seeks his long lost father (Ethan Hawke). The aging cowboy is grateful to be reunited with his lost son, so much so that he, alone, listens compassionately to the boy's story of woe. The audience, however, continues to suffer. Again, still, the heartbreak! William's story does not seem worthy of an entire film.
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