Struggling actor William (Mark Webber) and aspiring musician Sara (Catalina Sandino Moreno) enjoy a brief and exciting fling. Don't expect a sunny ending though, as William tells us early on that while he meets Sara at 20, his heart will be broken by the time he's 21.
Big question: In adapting his own novel, can writer-director-star Ethan Hawke (who plays William's absentee dad) do something different than his work in "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" and say more than "Before" co-star Julie Delpy's recent "2 Days in Paris"?
Catch it: Acknowledging the early-relationship glow and the darkness when it fades, "The Hottest State" has an honesty and patience that most new couples don't. William--trying too hard and clueless about how other men act around women--shows a young man without a father figure and a wealth of pop culture knowledge who doesn't know squat about the kind of love that happens in the real world.
Skip it: If you think divorce means your ex is forever out of sight, out of mind. While contemplating marriage, Sara tells William it would guarantee each of their places in the other's obituary. Yikes!
Bottom line: Hawke's script tends to over-write and over-think, and William walks the line between flawed and unsympathetic. The movie's a charming piece of sadness though, about love's all-consuming, confusing power and its ability to heal and wound only seconds apart.
Bonus: Happy couples--or anyone who's desperately insecure--can celebrate the movie's claim that love erases all the things you don't like about yourself. As for that drunkenly acquired Sponge-Bob tattoo, though, that issue you'll have to work out on your own.
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
'The Hottest State'
Written for the screen and directed by Ethan Hawke; based on the novel by Ethan Hawke; photographed by Chris Norr; edited by Adriana Pacheco; production design by Rick Butler; original music by Jesse Harris; produced by Alexis Alexanian and Yukie Kito. A ThinkFilm release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:57. MPAA rating: R (for sexual content and language).
William - Mark Webber
Sarah - Catalina Sandino Moreno
Jesse - Laura Linney
Vince - Ethan HawkeCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times