Friday, March 6, 2009

Thoughts on Philip Seymour Hoffman

I watched The Savages the other night, and it's really good. One of the executive producers, Jim Taylor (in a bit of kismet, Taylor is the writing partner of my profilee last month, Alexander Payne) said in an interview that The Savages wasn't "long on plot." That's an understatement. If you want plot, watch The Spanish Prisoner. On the other hand, if you want a movie that won't make you pull your eyes out and scream in anguish, don't. The Savages stars the above-mentioned Hoffman and the always good Laura Linney as siblings called into action to care for their dying father. It's pretty standard pseudo-estranged family drama stuff, but the key thing is PSH. His mumbling, stumbling, grungy theater professor is, as his roles usually are, the gem of the film. He has worked in some of the best true-life films of recent years: This one, and P.T. Anderson's seminal Punch Drunk Love and Magnolia, to name just a few. Oh, and Mission Impossible III (possibly the most underrated film of all time..., though admittedly, not so true-life).

Hoffman captures the essence and essential struggle of human people, and creates characters that, while not always likable, always leave a mark. He slums it sometimes, like everyone else (I'm talking to you, Cold Mountain), but, in the main, is excellent. I suppose there's not a lot of theological meat in this post, but we'll get to that. For the moment, it's enough to say that Philip Seymour Hoffman often plays human beings, and plays them well, which is recommendation enough.

Great movies no one has ever seen: (The Castle, Rob Sitch, 1997)

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