As an avid fan of Mr. P. Seymour Hoffman, CC's Portland correspondent (PCC) finally got around to renting Todd Louiso's Love Liza. Taking a cue from Brooklyn CC's earlier entry on Mr. Martin and the out-of-sight-out-of-mind disaster that was Bringin' Down The House, PCC is trying to willfully erase Love Liza from her memory and concentrate on the brilliance of the perpetually rumpled Philip Seymour in Boogie Nights (1997) and Magnolia (1999).
PCC is especially disappointed by Love Liza since it had so much going for it:
1. Not only did it star the aforementioned PSH, but it was written by PSH's brother, Gordy. One would think two Hoffmans would be double the fun. Wrong.
2. It was a 2002 Sundance darling, winning the Waldo Salt screenwriting prize (always of interest to PCC-the-fledgling-screenwriter) and nominated for the Grand Jury Prize.
So what went wrong? To begin, PCC felt absolutely no sympathy for PSH's Wilson Joel. While she empathized with the overwhelming pain he must have experienced after his wife's suicide, PCC felt as though she spent the entire film in some sort of gasoline-induced haze, never really getting close enough to the action to experience any real compassion for the characters. And speaking of gasoline, PCC was left utterly in the dark as to why Wilson decided to begin huffing gas and model airplane fuel in the first place. The quick shot of WJ catching the whiff of gas from a taxi's open fuel tank after his impromptu vacation did not logically merit the next hour or so of film, consisting of Wilson burying his face in a grimy, gas-soaked rag at any opportunity. PCC has experienced her share of gasoline fumes at the gas station, but she doubts that, even if her spouse commited suicide, she would make the jump from grief to huffing.
PCC feels that she must lastly address the film's tagline, proclaiming Louiso's film to be a "comic tragedy". Perhaps PCC is dumber than she once thought, but after sitting through 90 minutes of an increasingly doped-up and dirty PSH sniffing gas and crying, PCC failed to find the comic elements of the film. Is PCC overly sensitive or are suicide, grief-induced huffing habits, unemployment and overall hopelessness more aligned with straight-up tragedy than "tragicomedy" (PCC apologizes since she hates the phrase 'tragicomedy' almost as much as she despises 'dramedy', but the situation seemed to merit its use)? Perhaps if PCC took up sniffing gasoline herself she might find more humor in Louiso's film, but after a sober first viewing she encountered only hazy tragedy.