Movie Review by Neil Ryan
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, J D Walsh, Kathy Bates, Jimmy Raskin, Jack Kehler
Director: Todd Louiso
The premise of LOVE LIZA is simple: Philip Seymour Hoffman plays IT whizz William whose wife Liza has inexplicably killed herself and thus left her husband grieving and bereft of answers. Little attempt is made to explain the whys and wherefores of Liza’s decision. Instead we trace the reactions of the confused and shell-shocked widower as he seeks to continue his life as normally as possible, refusing to pursue the reasons behind his wife’s suicide for fear of what he may discover. Thus William finds that he is incapable of opening a suicide note left for him by Liza. Vulnerable and somewhat vacant he unquestioningly accepts the offers and suggestions of friends and colleagues (“Take this job”, “Take a vacation”, “Come over for dinner”) and engages in each activity with the bare minimum of commitment. William fails to connect with the familiar aspects of his old life. His relations with other people are shorn of any genuine attempt to integrate, and are mostly characterised by a soporific acceptance of events. His vague reasoning is further exacerbated by the solace he finds in his increasing addiction to inhaling petrol fumes.
A film such as LOVE LIZA needs a great central performance: the maudlin concept requires a sympathetic and involving lead in order to retain the attention of the audience. Thankfully Philip Seymour Hoffman is more than capable of engaging the viewer in the ebb and flow of his character’s emotions, and his understated and quietly moving performance comfortably anchors the film.
Despite being doleful and episodic LOVE LIZA manages to engage the audience in William’s plight as he veers between rehabilitation and breakdown. It certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste and many people will probably feel alienated by its failure to provide any easy answers to the dilemmas faced by William. However, if you enjoyed the recently released MORVERN CALLAR than you will find LOVE LIZA is a worthy companion piece on the theme of loss and the emotional hollow it can leave in its wake.