Reviewer's Rating 4 out of 5  
Love Liza (2003)

If the Academy Awards were founded on artistic merit rather than servile backslapping, "Love Liza" would definitely scoop several statuettes.

But since this leftfield movie deals with bereavement, isn't written or directed by anyone famous, and stars one of contemporary Hollywood's least appreciated actors, it's unlikely to even get a nomination.

Left a blurry-eyed mess after the unexpected suicide of his wife Liza, Wilson Joel (Philip Seymour Hoffman) stumbles through his job as a web designer, refusing to read the note she left.

Was Liza unhappy with him, or everything else in her life? Wilson doesn't want to know. In an act of desperation, he starts sniffing gasoline. He tries to hide his new addiction through a sudden obsession with remote control model planes.

Bearing many similarities to Jack Nicholson's "About Schmidt", "Love Liza" is an infinitely less conventional and far less star-driven movie.

It deals with the subject of loss, bereavement, and one man's mental breakdown with a welcome deftness, successfully walking the narrow path between sentimentality and black humour.

It's an offbeat film, and its tragic beauty lies in Hoffman's character. He is a man we engage with not because he's bereaved, but because he has absolutely no idea how he should deal with his bereavement.

Philip Seymour Hoffman finally gets the chance to play a part that lets him show what he's truly capable of. It's hardly surprising, then, that the script was written by his older brother, Gordy Hoffman.

Forcing us to identify with the character rather than the situation, director Todd Louiso (best known as the wimpy record shop employee in "High Fidelity") takes a wonderfully sardonic approach to both Wilson's obsession with remote control models and his surreal road trip with fellow enthusiast Denny (Jack Kehler).

He then delivers the film's emotional pay-off: a terrible moment of grief as Wilson realizes all that he's lost.

End Credits

Director: Todd Louiso

Writer: Gordy Hoffman

Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Jack Kehler, Sarah Koskoff, Stephen Tobolowsky, Shannon Holt

Genre: Drama

Length: 89 minutes

Cinema: 31 January 2003

Country: USA

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