Everyone goes through depressing times when all they want to do is listen to depressing music, watch depressing movies and just feel depressed. If you are going through one of these times, a perfect complement to your mood would be the viewing of “Love Liza,” a new film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Hoffman plays Wilson Joel, a computer whiz whose wife, Liza, commits suicide. The movie begins shortly after this happens and shows Wilson’s own special way of dealing with her death by avoidance. He cannot read her suicide note, addressed only to him.
Hoffman has spent his acting career playing supporting characters, often a smug, upper-class man with a quiet-yet-condescending wit (like in the films “Scent of a Woman” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley”). He certainly deserves a leading role but may have chosen the wrong one to break from the supporting mold. His playing of Wilson wants to be eccentric and clumsy, cursed by bad luck.
Numerous objects he touches fall down, from his car’s glove compartment to a cocktail to flowers. Wilson’s ineptitude may be a metaphor for his life, but one is led to confusion when this clumsiness is coupled with Hoffman’s often too-confident voice.
This deep and quiet conversational tone cannot escape the appearance of a snobbish intelligence behind it. The intonations of his voice hint at a stronger man, one more touched by arrogance and impervious to grief than Wilson. His actions never come across as being backed by any of these qualities, but the occasional tones of his voice remain hard to dismiss.
Hoffman’s voice just is not right for this part. This is unfortunate, because the rest of him is perfect as Wilson. One feels inclined to laugh with him and smirk at his frequently clich퀌�d antics, understanding the innate geekiness of Wilson. At alternate times, one wants to save Wilson from his life’s disastrous delving into the realms of death, gas fumes and apologetic pity.
Hoffman’s performance in “Love Liza” is a startling turnabout from his career history of jaded, bitter and even cruel characters. Always “that familiar guy next to the main guy that seems pretty mean,” Hoffman courageously departs from what he knows works, and jumps into Wilson, a man with rage, but somehow innocent rage. Wilson always seems harmless and wounded, incapable of hurting anyone save himself.
Which leads us to an intriguing question: Why did Liza kill herself? As much as one begins the film wanting to know, the need fades, and the reading of Liza’s suicide note takes a second place to the significance of how Wilson feels about what she wrote.
The basic plot of “Love Liza” (simply a widower trying to hold his life together) is minor in comparison to the character development outlined throughout the film. Though persistently depressing, this movie may cause you to really appreciate your significant other for a few days, and everyone needs a little appreciation sometimes.