Love Liza
***.2 GM
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Jack Kehler, Stephen Tobolowsky, Sarah Koskoff


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I mandated to myself that I see this film right off the bat at Sundance because it was directed by Todd Louiso (apparently pronounced Loo-EYE-zo), who played Dick in "High Fidelity." I suppose that also means I should check out every John Cusack movie (which means I should have bothered to see "America's Sweethearts"), every Lisa Bonet movie (I suppose I could rent "Angel Heart"), every Natasha Gregson Wagner movie (maybe it's about time I rent "Two Girls and A Guy" to see if Heather Graham can actually act) and, well, I'm already going to see every Jack Black movie, because I love the guy. I think I'll skip the next Iben Hjejle movie, though. If there is one.

So this film is a "meditation on depression." It's also about a guy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) whose wife committs suicide inexplicably and left a note he can't bring himself to read, so he makes a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of gasoline huffing. His mother-in-law (Kathy Bates) is trying to be there for him, but it's kinda hard to take solace in your recently-offed wife's mother's presence, especially when you think you're part of the reason she killed herself, so he's lost. As part of his lying to cover up his new addiction, he takes a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of model airplane hobbyism.

No, I don't know why I felt compelled to make the same "Knight Rider" reference twice in one paragraph, and I promise not to do it again in the paragraphs to come.

The dynamic between Hoffman and Bates is a good one, as she desperately wants to read the letter but can't just take it from him and read it because it's not addressed to her. I also applaud the use of Jeff Buckley's "Corpus Christie Carol" as well. Jack Kehler's performance as the model enthusiast that befriends him is welcome comic relief from the intensity of the anguish we witness throughout the movie.

The film never completely grabbed me, as there may be some element of my character that can never quite make the leap from depression to substance abuse, be it gasoline fumes or things what come in needles, something I can relate to. But the characters are interesting enough to keep me involved and wanting to know what could possibly be in that letter.

There were, oddly enough, a couple of times where Hoffman reminded me of Jack Black, somehow, and that made me wonder if JB could have played this role at all. Food for thought.

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