Eye For Film >> Movies >> Love Liza (2002) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
With movies that have no visible means of support, you expect certain things - commitment, originality, quirky acting, clever writing. That's asking more than 99 per cent of mainstream studio product.
Love Liza is scripted by playwright Gordy Hoffman, directed by Todd Louiso who played Jack Black's nerdy co-worker in High Fidelity and features Gordy's brother, the inimitable Philip Seymour Hoffman, as Wilson Joel, a computer website designer from the Mid West, who goes off the rails after his wife's suicide.
Hardly the stuff of box office dreams, you might think, and yet fiercely independent for all that. Wilson drifts into despair, without knowing what to do, or where to go. He sleeps on the floor, because his bed has memories. He finds an envelope under a pillow addressed to him from Liza, but can't open it. He fights with his mother-in-law (Kathy Bates), who only wants to help. He becomes addicted to gasoline fumes and can't do his job properly. He buys a remote control model airplane and finds a friend in Denny (Jack Kehler), another obsessive model racer.
The film is a study in disintegration that allows the unexpected to find its place, rather than follow recognisable routes. The mood might have been lighter, considering Philip Hoffman's talent for comedy, but depression is not a subject that lends itself to banana skins.
The performances are stunningly good and Gordy Hoffman's script avoids sentimentality, remaining economic and observant. Wilson escapes into the world of the enthusiast, in this case grown men who race remote control speed boats, almost by mistake, and discovers the curing properties of competitive zeal.
Inevitably, this is Wilson's story and Philip Hoffman's film. Will Wilson open the letter before he ODs on fuel fumes? Is Hoffman the most sympathetic character actor in Hollywood? The answer to both is yes.Reviewed on: 30 Jan 2003