Misery of Errors
Film review by: Witney Seibold
It’s hard to sum up Todd Louiso’s “Love Liza.” It is a powerful meditation, and begins feeling very honest in the Cinematic Realism sense, á la Mike Leigh or Lynne Ramsay. But then, it becomes so hopeless, and meanders along the same path for so long, one wonders if the filmmakers intended the level of hopelessness and misery that the film presents.
The film follows the overweight and nerdy web designer, Wilson (Philip Seymour Hoffman) after the suicide of his wife, Liza. He’s so taken aback by the event that he can’t mourn, rather, he begins to unravel. He sleeps everywhere but a bed. He begins showing an uninterested interest in radio-controlled vehicles. And, most harmfully, he becomes addicted to inhalants. We see him move in waves of stability. He numbs himself huffing fumes, then someone, out-of-the-blue, will say something nice. He’ll be up for a few moments, then he’ll take another look at his wife’s unopened suicide note, and then plunge even deeper back into pain. Pain so severe, his behavior becomes erratic and hostile. His mother-in-law (Kathy Bates) desperately wants to help in some way, but can’t get a handle on Wilson. We follow poor Wilson in this fashion until the very end.
This film was written by Gordy Hoffman, the star’s brother, making the lead perfect for Phillip. While Wilson is neither one to sympathize with nor to loathe, Hoffman seems to fit in his shoes incredibly well. A sad-sack. An addict. And a man coming apart. His performance was not engaging or involving, mind you, nor was it alienating or evil. It was simply… uncomfortable. Wilson is a man who is worst at surviving, and we get to see him in a situation where only the strong survive. It’s not pretty.
And then the film offers no solace. There was no indication of hope, of moving on, or even of tragedy or self-ruin. It is only indicated that Wilson will continue in his pattern of misery indefinitely. Had director Louiso (from “Chicago Hope”) decided on a stronger moral, perhaps the film would have been more satisfying.