Saw State of Play the other night. The movie. Not the BBC TV series, which is now in my Netflix queue. I hear the series was great. The movie was good. I'm not about to nominate it for a slew of Oscars. Best adapted screenplay, maybe. Best set decoration. Is there an Oscar for that? Best Art Direction then. If for nothing else, then for this:
Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck play former college roommates and estranged friends of the opposites attract sort, Cal McCaffrey and Stephen Collins. McCaffrey's a lone-wolf slob of a newspaper reporter. Collins is an up and coming politician, a hero of the first Gulf War and a rising star on Capitol Hill of Kennedy-esque looks and bearing and Barack Obama straight-arrowness. They're both working class Irish kids from Pennsylvania, but we're told this explicitly. We're only told that Collins now represents a district in Pennsylvania. We know he's a native from a glass McCaffrey has in his apartment.
The glass is the type of short tumbler you used to collect at gas stations or supermarkets or fast food restaurants as part of a set. This one belongs to a set devoted to NFL teams. The only one of the set we ever see clearly is one McCaffrey's drinking out in the first scene between Crowe and Affleck. It has a Pittsburgh Steelers helmet on it. That tumbler is worth a page of dialog.
We've already seen Affleck's office. In it he has displayed a vintage Philadelphia Phillies pennant.
The shot went by too fast for me to tell if the pennant was from the late 70s when the Phillies were going to the playoffs to lose their shot at the World Series or from the days of the Whiz Kids. I hope it was from the late 40s because then it would have belonged to his father and it would have been telling us that Collins is one-generation removed from his working class roots. Either way, though, the pennant is talking to the glass and both are telling us a lot about the relationship between these two characters.
Football fan. Baseball fan. Pittsburgh. Philadelphia. Even if Collins' family background was blue collar, McCaffrey's is bluer. Collins grew up within, at least by virtue of geography, the Northeastern elite establishment he's now a fixture of. McCaffrey grew up in the Rust Belt while the bottom was rusting out completely.
Don't want to read too much into this, but as long as I'm at it I might as well go out on a meta-limb: Note, though, that in their lifetimes McCaffrey's team has been the more winning team.
Who needs writers?