Philip Seymour Hoffman finally gets a starring role in Love Liza, a depressing though strangely goofy drama that watches as his character attempts to overcome the loss of his wife, who committed suicide.
Hoffman, who turns in amazing performances in almost every movie he appears - and the count is rather high - stars as Wilson Joel, who "decides" to go on a vacation for a couple of weeks while he tries to adjust to the fact that his wife committed suicide. Things become more challenging when he comes across a suicide note she left for him, but he can't bring himself to read it. Instead, he resorts to the simple pleasures of life, such as flying radio-controlled airplanes and breathing in gasoline fumes.
Hoffman turns in a good performance, as does Kathy Bates, who has a supporting role. Though she gets very limited screen time, her character is very powerful here. The other supporting cast members do a good job as well. Furthermore, the script is strong and believable, portraying a sense of foreboding misery that, as expected, cannot be overcome in a matter of days. Hoffman seems to be hovering in between the goofy, cheerful guy that his character obviously once was and the lost, scattered soul that he has become.
The problem with Love Liza, the major flaw that keeps it from being something more, is that it is just too depressing. It is not that Love Liza is anywhere near the dark level that The Hours rested at, because at times this movie almost plays like a comedy, but the movie almost continuously is depressing to watch. Hoffman spends the entire movie attempting to overcome the tragic event, yet he does so only by breathing gas fumes. So, in a sense, he gets worse as the movie goes on, and after a while, it is almost too sad to watch. Wherein most movies a character gets better, Hoffman's seems to lose focus and self destruct.
Love Liza has a good story, great acting and very good dialogue, but watching a stoned Hoffman make a fool of himself for an hour and a half is almost too depressing to watch. Perhaps this was the point of the movie, but it never seems as though he truly ever gets better. And there lies the problem.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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