Review: Jack Foley | Rating:
ONE of Hollywoods most under-rated actors gives a tour-de-force
performance in Love Liza, a film which takes the difficult subject
of bereavement and manages to turn it into something tremendously
affecting - if a little inaccessible in places.
Philip Seymour Hoffman has made a habit of delivering scene-stealing
support turns in movies such as Almost
Famous, The Talented Mr Ripley and Magnolia,
but here is given the chance to shine, hogging the screen in a
movie which, in the hands of a lesser performer, may have seemed
like a complete waste of time.
Set somewhere in middle America, Lova Liza finds Hoffmans
Wilson Joel, a successful website designer, attempting to come
to terms with the death of his young wife, Liza, who took her
Attempting to make sense of what happened, Joel finds a letter
from her but refuses to open it for fear of shattering his ideal
of the perfect life they shared. It is a decision which places
a strain on his relationship with his mother-in-law (Kathy Bates)
and which drives him to the desperate act of gasoline sniffing.
Sound like fun? Far from it, yet Love Liza expertly treads a
fine line between black humour and sentimentality without ever
feeling the need to become heavy-handed or overbearing.
A lot of this is due to Gordy Hoffmans polished script
(Gordy is Philips brother), while Todd Louisos offbeat
direction also helps to ensure that proceedings seldom get on
top of you (Louiso is better known as the quieter shop employee
in John Cusacks High
The film is certainly offbeat and unlikely to find a mainstream
audience, but for those willing to give it a look, there is plenty
Hoffman, especially, is towering and wallows in the limelight
afforded to him, rising above the difficult material to present
a character who is as sympathetic as he is, occasionally, frustrating.
His addiction to gasoline continually threatens to undermine
the breaks he is offered by those that care for him, while his
newfound love of remote control models forces him to forge an
unlikely friendship with Jack Kehlers fellow enthusiast,
Danny, who could posibly help him to unlock his grief.
Bates, as Joels equally confused mother-in-law, is also
back on form and the scenes between her and Hoffman really crackle
Love Liza won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting award at the 2002
Sundance Film Festival (a strong indicator of the years
best independent releases) and remains an accomplished and challenging
piece of work for all concerned.
Its answers may not make for comfortable viewing, but for
Hoffman alone, this remains worth seeing.