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'Love Liza'

Film Clips: A roundup of new releases

Friday, March 28, 2003

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

I can't tell whether "Love Liza" wants to be a sad drama or a bleak comedy about a man dealing with the unexpected suicide of his wife. The third possibility is unpleasant to contemplate: that it's trying to be both.

'Love Liza'

RATING: R for drug use, language and brief nudity.

STARRING: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kathy Bates.

DIRECTOR: Todd Louiso.

WEB SITE: www.sonyclassics.com


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Wilson Joel (Philip Seymour Hoffman) designs Web sites for a living, but becomes increasingly morose, withdrawing from his normal activities. Liza left him a letter explaining her actions, but he can't bring himself to open it, much to the dismay of his mother-in-law, Mary Ann (Kathy Bates).

Stuff keeps happening to Wilson. He comes home one day to find someone has stolen all of his furniture. No matter -- he couldn't bring himself to sleep in his bedroom anyhow, so he just curls up on the floor.

One day, he starts sniffing gasoline. When people ask why he keeps it around, he says he flies model airplanes. That brings him into association with Denny (Jack Kehler), who is fairly obsessed with the hobby. And Wilson goes off in search of himself, or whatever. The final scene plays either as one last cosmic joke at his expense or as symbolism regarding the notion of closure -- or, again, maybe both.

Directed by Todd Louiso (he played Jack Black's record-store crony in "High Fidelity"), "Love Liza" was written by Gordy Hoffman, who happens to be the brother of the film's star. It may be a sibling's gift -- a lead role for one of the best character actors of our time. But too many things wander in it -- the story line, the comic tone, the characters themselves.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was the main reason I chose to see "Love Liza" last year at the Toronto International Film Festival. You might find him the best reason to see the film as well.

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