Sunday, February 23, 2014
Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967–2014)
Philip Seymour Hoffman had died. He was an extremely talented, versatile and intelligent actor who made every project he was in better (seeing his name on the credits was a reassurance). His early work is notable for how he turned what could have remained small, forgettable or clichéd roles into memorable, intriguing characters. Likewise, one of many things I admired about it was that, even after he was getting leading parts, he continued to play extremely interesting supporting roles. He was a regular fixture of P.T. Anderson's films, and it's no surprise that good writer-directors sought out Hoffman and vice versa. Although he had a hulking frame, he managed to sell himself (all the way to an Oscar) as the diminutive, soft-spoken Truman Capote. He could play a snitch or a villain with panache, and showed a deft feel for comedy as well. His death at the relatively young age or 46 is a tremendous loss. A rash of fine performers have died recently, but at least Peter O'Toole, Pete Seeger, Maximillian Schell, Shirley Temple Black and Sid Caesar had long runs. Hoffman's list of credits is extraordinary. I still need to see his directorial efforts, but the list of performances I loved is long. He plays a memorable weasel in Scent of a Woman and a suck-up par excellence in The Big Lebowski. As Scotty in Boogie Nights, his self-loathing (he's gay and smitten with Eddie/Dirk) makes him sympathetic. I've only seen clips of Flawless, but a friend of mine who adored Hoffman cited that performance all the time – what impressed her was that Hoffman didn't play Rusty as stereotypically gay or transgendered, but simply and matter-of-factly as a woman, and with dignity (more unusual in 1999 perhaps, but still). He plays a small but crucial role as the nurse in Magnolia. In The Talented Mr. Ripley, he's the one character to see through Tom Ripley's façade from the start, and he infuses his lingering stares and offhand remarks with subtle but palpable menace. In Almost Famous, he delivers a lovely, kind sermon to our hero on being "not-cool" and how embracing that difficult path can lead to becoming a good writer. He's the comic relief buddy to Ben Stiller in Along Came Polly, and he brings a goofy, fun energy to every scene he's in. His Oscar-winning performance is Capote is restrained, detailed, and engrossing. His passionate bluster as Gus in Charlie Wilson's War is enormous fun and one of the best things about the movie. In Doubt, the movie depends on him keeping us guessing, and he walks that line expertly. He and Paul Giamatti are excellent and the best things about The Ides of March. He's grounded and completely believable as worldly-wise Oakland A's baseball manager Art Howe in Moneyball. His charismatic, enigmatic role in The Master is assured and accomplished, and he plays wonderfully off his costars Joaquin Phoenix (playing Freddie) and Amy Adams (as Peggy), utterly still in the face of Freddie's manic chaos, yet occasionally exploding his own façade when challenged. The scenes between him and Donald Sutherland in Catching Fire were a joy. Hoffman was always so good regardless of the role it was easy to take it for granted that he'd deliver a fine performance and that he'd gift us with many more in the future. He will be greatly missed. The New York Times obituary. The Los Angeles Times obituary. The Washington Post obituary, plus fan and peer reactions. Rob Vaux's remembrance for Mania. Rolling Stone: "Philip Seymour Hoffman Mourned Online by Fans and Colleagues," "Philip Baker Hall Remembers 'Genius' Philip Seymour Hoffman" and "9 Overlooked Philip Seymour Hoffman Performances." Aaron Sorkin: "Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death Saved 10 Lives." Marc Maron on Hoffman and addiction. Lance Mannion revisits his reviews of Hoffman's films, starting here (you can scroll through the other posts up above). The remembrance threads from LG&M and Balloon Juice, featuring some great clips.