Love Liza

Over the past decade, Philip Seymour Hoffman has appeared in a huge number of films in supporting roles, but Love Liza is his first time headlining a movie. It may help that Gordy Hoffman, who happens to have a brother named Philip Seymour, wrote Love Liza. Overall, it is a decent star vehicle, but is thin enough that it sometimes feels more like an exercise in acting than an interesting movie. Hoffman (Red Dragon, Punch-Drunk Love) is Wilson, a man coping with the recent suicide of his wife Liza. He is living in a daze, sleeping on the floor of his house because it's too painful to sleep in the bed they shared. Things get worse when he finds a suicide letter from Liza.

He refuses to open the letter, and sinks further into depression. Nobody, especially his mother-in-law Mary Ann (Kathy Bates, About Schmidt, American Outlaws). She desperately wants to know why her daughter killed herself, and Wilson's refusal to open the letter frustrates her to no avail. To Wilson, the letter represents finality. This is the last thing he can hang onto of his wife. He is scared of what may be inside. To escape from the world, he begins inhaling gasoline fumes. To cover up his addiction, he pretends that he is a remote control plane enthusiast. Here, he meets Denny (Jack Kehler, Men in Black II, Big Trouble), who sees that something is clearly wrong with Wilson but is willing to stand by him as a friend. It feels like Kehler is the only source of life in this film.

The bulk of what director Todd Luiso The Fifteen Minute Hamlet) has Hoffman do is wander around aimlessly, in a never-ending funk. This is not a happy happy movie. Hoffman's performance is good, but it is one sustained note of a gasoline-induced haze. It is a brave performance too, since the Wilson role does not cast him in a good light. He is capable of much, but is not given much range here. He is either out of it or really out of it. To that end, Love Liza never feels like it is going anywhere. It is a bit thin on plot, and could probably make a good short film. To be a full-length feature film, it needs a little bit more depth to the story and characters.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour 33 minutes, Rated R for drug use, language, and brief nudity.

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