Last hurrah for newspaper movies? ‘State of Play’ opens this week

State of Play movie Well, for an opener, State of Play is a variant on His Girl Friday in a one way at least.

Over here we have Cal McAffrey, a reporter of the old school. In the other corner? A female blogger named Della Frye, also working for the Washington Globe.

State is a thriller starring Russell Crowe as Cal; and Ann Hornaday, a Washington Post reviewer, says the “plot gets more rickety and risible as time goes on.” But she loves the “crisp” style and overall gives State a thumbs-up.

The plot centers around the death of the mistress of a congressman—the Chandra Levy mystery Hollywoodized.

Last newspaper movie ever made?

image So, with so many dailies keeling over or at least gravely threatened, will this be the last newspaper movie ever made? Not quite. But will State be the last one portraying newspapers as contemporary institutions?

“I definitely think it’s the last movie that not’s a period movie that will be set in a newsroom,” Ben Affleck said on the Rachel Maddow show last night.

As author of The Solomon Scandals, which is a period novel, I’m rooting for State of Play to be boffo box office even if my approach is rather different. And I’m not just being a good sport. The better State of Play does, the greater the Hollywood potential for Scandals. So often, studios move in flocks.

Differences between Scandals and State of Play: The movie is distilled from a television series. The Solomon Scandals, although strictly a novel, is distilled from Real Life. What’s more, it’s a thriller-satire as opposed to a straight thriller. Also, the time period is a mix of the past (the main plot unfolds in the 1970s) and the future (the director of the “Institute of Previrtual Studies” writes the foreword and the afterword) as opposed to simply the present. The other big difference is that I grew up in the D.C. area and I hadn’t any choice but to give Scandals plenty of local color. State of Play’s creators had to try harder, since the concept started out as a British miniseries.

Related: The official State of Play site and Google news roundup, as well as a New York Times review, which notes the Cal-Della battles but also “the near-total absence of sexual tension,” maybe “a concession to the mores of the modern workplace.”

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David Rothman

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