It's tempting to chastise Ethan Hawke for ego and hubris when he writes and directs an adaptation of his autobiographical novel, casting vague lookalike (and fairly close soundalike) Mark Webber as the Ethan Hawke character and casting himself as the Ethan Hawke character's estranged father (whew!). But just as Hawke mixed self-deprecation and pretension in many of his early film roles, the film's solipsism is earnest and therefore difficult to dismiss outright.
Unfortunately, The Hottest State is still very much a spiritual match of that young Hawke, not the more assured, grounded, charismatic actor he became in movies like Gattaca, Great Expectations, or Training Day. As such, it can eventually be dismissed, around the time you realize that the relationship between aspiring actor William (Mark Webber) and aspiring singer Sara (Catalina Sandina Moreno) is, essentially, the whole movie. They will come together, drift apart, and reconcile, some of those more than once, and almost always inexplicably. Webber will be forced to look genuinely self-interested in his own self-conscious, pseudo-philosophical musings. Moreno will be forced to look interested in Webber. Hawke, presumably, isn't faking it.
In fact, he shows slivers of promise as a director (the film's sun-faded look is nice to behold) and even as a writer. There are interesting aspects to The Hottest State's simple story; they just don't have much to do with the young lovers, but rather with William's life before his vaguely phony New York acting career. But potentially interesting characters like his mother (Laura Linney), his absent father (Ethan Hawke) and ex-girlfriend (Michelle Williams) linger on the sidelines as William deals with love and heartbreak by being insufferable in different keys. We got to see Hawke grow out of his affected-hipster phase with grace; William has no such time afforded to him.