Love Liza (2002)

“I own a plane and it runs on gas and I wanna fly the thing right fuckin’ now!” Philip Seymour Hoffman gives an amazing performance as “Wilson Joel,” a website designer who turns to inhaling gasoline fumes in order to cope with his wife Liza’s inexplicable suicide. A shell of his former self, Wilson also carries around her unopened suicide letter, which he cannot bear to read. He sleeps on the floor surrounded by boxes and eventually decides to stop going to work at all. Wilson attempts to conceal his addiction by claiming to a colleague (who drops by his house unannounced) that the pervasive gasoline smell stems from his (nonexistent) hobby of flying remote-control airplanes. Before you know it, Wilson has actually bought a remote-control plane and he starts hanging out with obsessed enthusiast “Denny” (Jack Kehler, another excellent performance). Meanwhile, Wilson has to deal with his mother-in-law “Mary Ann” (Kathy Bates), who is trying to cope with the death of her daughter in her own way. Billed as “A Comic Tragedy,” Love Liza is a low-key and offbeat but very powerful character study that pays plenty of dividends for the patient viewer. I especially enjoyed the scene where one of Wilson’s coworkers makes a joke and he laughs just a little too long, as well as when Wilson takes a swim right in the middle of the model boat competition. Hoffman’s older brother, Gordy, wrote the script and the film received the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. Other hidden film treasures starring Hoffman that I recommend include Owning Mahowny (2003), Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007) and The Savages (2007). Director Todd Louiso portrayed “Dick,” the unassertive record store clerk in High Fidelity (2000), which starred John Cusack.

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