Rental Unit: "The Hottest State" 

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Even by the end of "The Hottest State," I wasn't sure if Ethan Hawke was an insane genius, or just insane. Hawke wrote and directed this New York-set romantic drama (based on his own novel) about William (Mark Webber), an aspiring actor who meets and falls in love with Sara (Catalina Moreno), an aspiring singer.

You know, boy meets girl, boy says really dopey things to girl, then more dopey things, then so many dopey things you start to realize that it's not just the boy and the girl, but the entire movie and probably the writer-director that are dopey.

"Would you shut up with the corny lines?" That's William talking to Sara, but it could be a case of a writer talking to himself.

"So it's kind of like an audition?" William asks Sara about their temporary live-in situation. "Well, I hope I get a call-back." With decent speakers you can hear the crickets chirping in the background.

"Mexico is where it all went down," William informs us, narrating his and Sara's first night in the sack. I imagine Hawke at his laptop writing such a line, and wonder if he could possibly be serious or simply wanted to make something so true to life it was painful.

But reality is hard to deny forever. The things William and Sara do and say to each other would embarrass people their own age. Even if Hawke means for his characters to come off as juvenile, it doesn't do his film any service without leavening his characters with admirable qualities.

Laura Linney, always excellent, is on hand as William's mom, and though she tries to smack some sense into the whiny drip, she can save neither son nor movie. Hawke should be court-ordered to stick to acting. Even the soundtrack to his book-turned-movie is lousy. (PG-13)

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