You, Me, Him

Philip Seymour Hoffman is a great actor, because he never acts

DO:Do people recognize that in you, or is it hard, given this isn't an industry interested in small movies about small people and small pains...

PSH:No, it's not, and they do make those movies, that's for sure, but sometimes they take those movies and make them big things, anyway, which is what happens a lot. I dunno. I think [last] year, to be quite honest, was one of the better years for the studios and the independent movement and younger directors and older directors all struggling with trying to make artful work--not always successfully. It doesn't really even matter at the end of the day. But I see that happening, and I hope it keeps moving in that direction, because I think inevitably we're educating an audience to watching lots of different kinds of movies. I think more people saw at the end of the year a kind of independent-flavored film, more than we saw in recent years, and that can only be a good thing.

The Everyman, everywhere: Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the most recognizable faces in films, and not just because he's in so danged many of them.
The Everyman, everywhere: Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of the most recognizable faces in films, and not just because he's in so danged many of them.

Love Liza Philip Seymour Hoffman, among the handful of Great American Actors, carries his grief in his gut, on his slumped shoulders, behind his dead-to-the-world eyes; his is the limping strut of a man walking to the gallows of his own volition. Such is the performance he brings to Love Liza, in which Hoffman plays Wilson Joel, a Web site designer whose wife committed suicide (before the film opens) and left behind a note he refuses to open, either because he doesn't want to know why she permanently parked in the garage or because he knows it will be the last time they'll communicate. Wilson takes to sleeping on the floor, ignores his mother-in-law (Kathy Bates), starts huffing gasoline for the dizzying escape and begins tinkering with remote-control planes to mask his addiction; by film's end, he's left with nothing, where once, a bitter Bates reminds, "You had everything!" Director Todd Louiso wrings all he can from performers and audience alike; your reward for suffering alongside Wilson, affable even in his self-destruction, is complete devastation. The movie doesn't end; it, like Wilson, just gives up, and you're wrecked by the hopelessness. Not a happy ending, just a very real one. (R.W.)

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