By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jan 12, 2001 at 8:27 AM

There is no easier target than Hollywood and picking on the directors, actors and films is a favorite pastime of this reviewer. But even better is when Hollywood takes aim at itself as does talented writer and director David Mamet in his latest film, "State and Main."

A great script, a satirical story and an all-star cast ensure that "State and Main" will be one of the best comedic films of the year.

When the crew of a big-budget Hollywood film is ousted from one quaint New England small town, it arrives in another with the hope of salvaging a film that is already teetering on the brink of financial collapse.

"The Old Mill" is being directed by Hollywood veteran Walt Price, played pitch-perfectly by William Macy ("Fargo," "American Buffalo") and written by poet Joe White, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Almost Famous," "Flawless"). These two must figure out how to save the film, the budget for which was spent in the previous town, fled in haste.

The other main problems faced by Price are the fact that there is no old mill in the new location and the film's two mega-stars. Bob Barringer (Alec Baldwin) has a dangerous taste for underage girls and Claire Wellesley (Sarah Jessica Parker) has a new-found aversion to nude scenes.

But the town and its people begin to creep into the picture as more than simply extras. Young Carla Taylor (Julia Stiles) is determined to become a distraction for Barringer and local bookseller and amateur theatre director Ann Black (Rebecca Pidgeon) becomes a major player in White's life.

Meanwhile, Black's fiancee, local politician Doug MacKenzie (Clark Gregg) has decided that it's in the town's best interest to squeeze as much money from the production as possible.

When producer Marty Rossen (David Paymer) arrives in town and takes on the "bad cop" role, things heat up.

Add to this the fact that the Hollywood folks behave presumptuously in this friendly small town (the big players stand up mayor George Bailey and his wife --played by Charles Durning and Patti LuPone -- at an exclusive dinner) and that director of photography Uberto Pazzi (which means "crazy" in Italian), played by Vinne Gustafero, is intent on destroying the oldest architectural landmark in town for the sake of a single shot in the film, and you've got a recipe for mayhem and laughs.

Mamet succeeds in building a multi-layered script with witty banter, tender love scenes and biting farce. His cast grabs the material and runs with it, wringing out every bit of humor. Don't miss it.

Grade: A

"State and Main" is now showing.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.