State of Play Sags from Sluggish Pacing, Unconvincing Plot
- Friday, April 17, 2009
Another of the problems with State of Play is the character of Affleck's wife, Anne. Penn is a fine actress, and she does her best with the role. But it's hard to believe that she and McAffrey were former lovers. The chemistry between those two is minimal, and it's not clear whether the film wants us to root for the former couple to get back together—an unsavory prospect, given that the woman is already married, albeit to a man who's been unfaithful to her.
So what's to like about State of Play? The lead performances are fine, although McAdams is overshadowed by Crowe, Affleck and Mirren. Best of all is a supporting performance from Jason Bateman, who gives the film a strong pulse for about 20 minutes as a key source for Collins' story. Also to the film's credit, Collins and Anne never reconnect romantically, nor do Collins and Frye hit it off. Their relationship is strictly professional—a newbie reporter leaning on a veteran to break her first big story.
But if State of Play wanted to be a love song to print journalism, it needed to do a better job of digging into the contrast between "old-fashioned" print reporting and online reporting. After some early fireworks and sparking dialogue about newsroom politics, the film drops that issue for the most part to focus on McAffrey's shoe-leather reporting and the tightening net around Collins. Frye, who had fought her editor for a piece of the breaking story, has a much reduced presence in the later stretch of the film.
In the end, the film gives McAffrey the hero's role, including an extended scene of him filing the story—for the print edition, of course—as his awed co-workers look on. Whether watching a man sit at a computer and type provides a satisfactory conclusion for this "thriller" is for viewers to decide.
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- Smoking/Drinking: Drinking at home, and at a bar; a reference to "Irish wine" (whiskey), which is then consumed; a character requests a beer, although he's said to be stoned; a man takes a cigarette, which is later lit, although we don't see him put the cigarette in his mouth; drug references.
- Language/Profanity: A joke about sex with an overweight woman; a crude reference to oral sex and to the male sex organ; some foul language; Lord's name taken in vain; one character tells another not to take the Lord's name in vain.
- Sex/Nudity: Kissing; discussion of an earlier affair; a picture of a woman in her underwear; discussion of a rumored three-way sexual tryst; a woman is said to have gotten "on her back all by herself"; reference to out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
- Violence: A chase scene includes a man struck by a motorcycle; a man is shot twice; disturbing imagery during a scene in an autopsy room; a man under medical care is shot; a man is shot at and his hand is wounded; an armed man is shot.
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