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Philip Seymour Hoffman has made a career out of playing deeply depressed
characters. In `Love Liza,' he has found what might well be his most
perfectly suited role to date, that of a young man trying to come to terms
with the suicide of his wife.
Written by Gordy Hoffman and directed by Todd Louiso, `Love Liza' is a searing study of grief, one that chronicles the many stages a man goes through in coping with this type of tragedy. Wilson first finds himself unable to sleep in the same bed he used to share with his wife. Then he returns to the place where they spent their honeymoon in a vain attempt to find some solace or answers there. Then there's the turn towards self-destruction as he seeks escape from his pain by inhaling mass quantities of gasoline. All along the way, well-meaning friends, colleagues and family members proffer what they can in the way of support and sympathy but, invariably, they find themselves ill-equipped to deal with grief at this level of intensity. This is even the case with Mary Ann, Wilson's understanding mother-in-law, who is having to cope with her son-in-law's dysfunction while also dealing with her own grief at the loss of her daughter.
The title of the film comes from a signed suicide note Liza left to Wilson under his pillow. That letter, which Wilson cannot bring himself to open, only adds to the man's despair, for he fears it may reveal that he was somehow responsible for his wife's actions. Thus, wracked with guilt as well as grief, Wilson slides ever further into that deep dark hole of despair. The filmmakers, in an effort to mitigate some of the misery inherent in the subject matter, invest the story with a number of sly, quirky touches, such as Wilson's sudden obsession with mechanized toy airplanes. But the overwhelming sadness is never far from the film's surface.
`Love Liza' is, at its core, an actor's film and the cast proves itself worthy of the challenge. Hoffman's portrait of a man whose entire meaning for existence has been knocked out from under him is devastating in its understatement and power. Kathy Bates turns in an equally fine and subdued performance as his grieving mother-in-law, and Sarah Koskoff and Jack Kehler offer fine support.
Is `Love Liza' a `dark' film? Absolutely. But it is also a brave, insightful and compelling one for those willing to enter its world. It may not be easy to watch, but it is probably harder not to.
One never knows how grief will affect anyone. The loss of a loved one
is something no one is prepared for. When tragedy strikes, as it's the
point of this film, the surviving spouse is so desolate that he cannot
deal with his loss. That is why Wilson, the grieving husband of Liza
goes to the deep end trying to cope with her untimely death.
Liza's death is not spoken of until Wilson receives a telephone call from the local newspaper editor that is trying to write an obituary about her death and asks whether he wants to mention the suicide, or not. We get a clue about what happened to Liza when Wilson goes to the garage and sees her car. This is a link, perhaps, as to why he resorts to sniffing gasoline, as a way to obliterate the tragedy from his mind, as Wilson tries to comprehend what could have motivated her suicide.
"Love Liza" is a different kind of film. It will irritate some viewers, but ultimately, it will reward those that stay with the story. The screen play written by Gordy Hoffman could have used some editing, but his story feels real. Todd Luiso directed with conviction.
The film's main character, Wilson, is brilliantly played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, one actor who is always a pleasure to watch for the intensity he brings to his appearances. In fact, his Wilson is one of the best roles he has played. Kathy Bates, on the other hand, as the mother of the dead Liza, is only seen briefly, but her scenes convey the impression how this woman is suffering as she seeks answers about her daughter's untimely departure. Sarah Koskoff, Stephen Tobolowsky and Jack Kehler, especially, make good contributions to the film.
This film is a must for Phillip Seymour Hoffman's fans.
This is not 'Terms of Endearment'. This film does not offer answers,
explanations, or resolution, and as such I found it to be a very effective
portrayal of the aftermath of a suicide.
It's not an enjoyable film to watch, but it's very much worthwhile. First off, the acting is fantastic. Philip Seymour Hoffman deserves all the raves he's getting for this role -- he's downright painful to watch. All of the supporting cast -- except for the mother-in-law portrayed by Kathy Bates, who is exhausted with her own grief -- brilliantly introduces nuances of discomfort. It's not overdone, but it's obvious that these characters are internally dealing with the question of how to deal with Hoffman's character Wilson, who has just suffered this terrible and shocking loss. The dialogue is consistently and realistically not natural, in keeping with the awkward position of the supporting characters and Wilson's deteriorating mental health.
I have seen this film criticized because Wilson's position is *so* dreary, that it may seem over-the-top, unrealistic. But, really, the character's wife recently shot herself. What bright spots were such critics expecting in this character's life at this time? I believe the writing of the plot is realistic in this regard.
Structurally, it's brave, risky, and effective. I felt alienated by the lack of explanation and resolution of Wilson's position. Not a positive emotion to walk out of a film with, but extremely powerful. The sparse soundtrack and the painfully sympathetic supporting characters all added to this feeling of alienation.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are some people who, despite the tragedy which befalls them, are able to move on with their lives without letting the pain become so all-consuming as to stop all conscious action. There are others, however, for whom loss and pain become synonymous of living in a state of arrested development that eventually spins out of control. This is the case of Wilson Joel (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who, after his wife Liza has killed herself, sees little reason to go on with his life and eventually stops going to work to nurture a growing addiction to gasoline. At 89 minutes, LOVE LIZA tries to tell an honest story of a man unable to pick himself up and move on, but because the man in question isn't quite sympathetic and scenes wander without an apparent purpose it seems a little too long, and when a crucial confrontation scene with his mother-in-law (Kathy Bates) arrives, it feels very belated and we understand that Wilson may not return to his former life. Too depressing at times, this is only for indie aficionados.
I saw this film at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival. This is the feature directorial debut of actor Todd Louiso (and yes, he talks and acts exactly like his character in High Fidelity). Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Wilson Joel, a man whose wife has committed suicide before the film begins. We follow Wilson as he tries to carry on, unable to open the suicide note she left for him, becoming addicted to sniffing gasoline fumes, and trying to make friends among radio-control car/boat/plane enthusiasts. If it sounds a bit wacky, it is. It's also beautiful and very very sad. Hoffman is a genius at playing lovable sad sacks, and he's even better than usual here, carrying the entire picture on his slumped shoulders. The wonderful Jack Kehler (who played the artistic superintendent in The Big Lebowski) provides excellent comic relief. Philip's brother Gordy Hoffman wrote the screenplay, and the film took four years to get made. Obviously a labour of love. A gorgeous melancholy soundtrack from Jim O'Rourke adds immeasurably to an already powerful film.
Love Liza is a not a movie for everyone. Its kind of slow but that is kind
of the point. We meet Wilson Joel, beautifully portrayed by one of my
favourite actors Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who has lost his wife, Liza. His
wife has committed suicide, and our friend is seriously struggling with
loss. He finds Lizas suicide letter, and Wilson who has great problems
solving his grief is unable to read the letter.
I found this movie to be really good. Like I said, it's not a movie for everyone, but If you like movies that shows personal drama in a non-Hollywood fashion, you might like this one. Kathy Bates plays Lizas mother, an as always, she does a hell of a job.
Before you watch this film you must ask yourself, how depressed am I?
There is not a bright light in this film anywhere. If you are already
on the edge and don't want to go over, I would not recommend watching
That said, Phillip Seymour Hoffman gave an Oscar-worthy performance. He was completely terrific and should have won the Oscar for this film. Kathy Bates was great too. Everyone was great. The story was believable and well scripted.
But, unless you enjoy slumming in depression, I would forgo watching this film. There are too many other films that offer even the smallest ray of positivity to spend your time on this one. A tiny smile generated from a film is, in my humble opinion, better than being left looking for the razor blades.
I gave it a 7 because of the craftsmanship exhibited by the actors and filmmakers. If I had to give it a rating on how it made me feel afterward, I'd probably have to give it a 1.
In short, this movie did precisely what it intended to do. After his spouse committs suicide, Hoffman's character finds himself on a dark journey of the heart. Depressed and hopeless, he turns to a dangerous drug to find solace. I have never seen grief portrayed as well as I have seen in this flick. If you allow yourself to become engaged with Mr. Hoffman's character, you will find yourself walking along in his slow, trudging shoes. You will find yourself struggling for rhyme, reason and redemption just like him. Some may argue that the character never evolves, or developes. That my friends, is the point of this masterpiece.
"Love Liza" is a great film. A story about depression and the effect loved ones have on each other, it elicits all kinds of emotions from the audience: Laughter, Sadness, Anger. It deals with two subjects that are not easily displayed on film: Drug Use and Suicide, but deals with them in a brilliant way. After the death of his wife, Wilson (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), is thrown into a state of depression. He finds his wife's suicide note but does not want to open for fear of its contents and begins huffing gasoline to try to steer clear of the pain. Phillip Seymour Hoffman IS Wilson and does not skip a beat the entire film. He is one of this generations greatest actors, and this film shows why. Jack Kehler as Denny turns in a tremendous performance as well as Kathy Bates as Wilson's mother-in-law. Good film, made brilliant by superb performances.
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Wilson, a software engineer who has just
lost his wife to suicide. The movie traces Wilson's descent into
gasoline sniffing, erratic behavior, wanton risk taking, and ultimate
P.S.H. and Kathy Bates turn in good performances but, whereas Hoffman is the central focus, his performance is a little more mannered and forced than we have come to expect from him.
Maybe there is no more meaning to grief than as a highly personal experience, but as a moviegoer having suffered through this man's trauma for an hour and a half I wanted more reward. The hook to keep us interested was the suicide note, but it turned out to be rather generic. At the end we are just left with lots of questions: what was Wilson's wife like, did he drive her to suicide, how come he had no friends, what was it in the relationship that the suicide knocked him for such a loop, what was he like before the suicide, does the final scene imply that Wilson has taken the final step into madness or that the only way for him to recover was to leave everything behind?
If you are a P.S.H fan, then maybe there is enough here for you, but I think this movie will be a little too dark for most viewers.
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