DVD Review: The Hottest State

THINKFilm
Movie ••• Picture ••• Sound ••• Extras •••½

Self-absorption may be a chronic condition for many people of a certain youthful age - especially when it's observed through somewhat older eyes. But is that reason enough to make a long, slow, appropriately self-indulgent film with little else on its mind?

Screenwriter/director Ethan Hawke, working from his own novel, answers a resounding "Yes!" with The Hottest State, a movie about what can go wrong when one-half of an arty New York couple falls a little too deeply in love. Intentionally ragged and willfully low-budget, the film has a few wonderfully insightful moments and some great acting, mostly from a supporting cast that features Michelle Williams and Laura Linney. But you may struggle to catch their performances as the movie repeatedly screams, "indie film!"

Often shot using natural light, The Hottest State veers from low-rez pixelizations to profusely bleeding colors, so it's hard to blame the disc for the obvious picture flaws. At least the dialogue is audible, although the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is mostly concerned with integrating the original songs of Jesse Harris. He's known primarily for his collaborative work with Norah Jones, but here his tunes are sung by royalty from the worlds of country (Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris) and, of course, indie rock (Cat Power, M. Ward), to mostly great effect.

Hawke and several members of his crew sit for an amiably chatty commentary - the on-set vibe must have been a lot of fun - but a short film by Hawke called Straight to One suffers from the feature's very same indulgences. Ah, callow youth.

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