Director: Todd Louiso.
Screenplay: Gordy Hoffman.
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Jack Kehler, Stephen Tobolowsky, Annie Morgan, Kelli Garner.
“I own a plane and it runs on gas and I wanna fly the thing right fucking now“.
In the wake of the saddening news yesterday that one of my favourite actors, the marvellous Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away due to a suspected overdose, I thought it fitting to look back at his first leading role where he proved his extensive talents.
Despite him regularly being the support with smaller roles, Hoffman was an actor that always managed to grab my attention with his consistently excellent performances, while the “bigger stars” around him struggled to keep up. Written by his brother Gordy, this was the film that gave him the leading role that helped cement his reputation as one the finest actors of his generation.
Following his wife’s suicide, computer designer Wilson Joel (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is left with a goodbye note he can’t bring himself to read. In his grief he behaves quite peculiarly and becomes addicted to sniffing gasoline. In order to mask his addiction, he gets involved in flying toy planes so he can feed his habit.
Sometimes a film comes along that’s not entirely classic stuff but gives an exceptional actor a showcase role and the opportunity to really show what they’re capable of. This is that very film for Hoffman. His performance is simply marvellous, shifting effortlessly from one emotion to another as he conveys the depths of his despair and emotional suffering. This is an actor displaying his full acting range and when his performance was lavished with superlatives, it deserved every one of them. The film itself is not entirely successful and suffers from a lethargic pace and overly pessimistic tone but it benefits from being offbeat and manages to avoid conventions. Despite it’s periodic lulls, it still has touches of brilliance and director Todd Louiso (in his debut) shows that he can confidently craft a solid character study and astute commentary on grief and the differing effects it has on people. The problem with this though, is when you’re sharing a character’s mental and emotional anguish, a 90 minute film can seem longer than it actually is.
Sitting through a film where the main character is in a constant state of suffering and losing his grip on reality, may not appeal to everyone but if you choose to avoid this, then you would only miss out on an acting masterclass and the perfect reminder of a tremendous talent that we’ll sadly no longer see.
R.I.P Philip Seymour Hoffman