Love Liza [2002]

A finely detailed character study, Love Liza offers yet another excellent performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Written by Hoffman's brother Gordy (who won the Best Screenplay award at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival) and directed by first-timer Todd Louiso (an actor best known for memorable roles in Jerry Maguire and High Fidelity), this poignant, offbeat drama focuses intently on Wilson Joel (Hoffman), a computer programmer whose wife has recently committed suicide, leaving Wilson a sealed note that he can't bring himself to read, despite the urgings of his grieving mother-in-law (played to perfection by Kathy Bates). As Wilson huffs gasoline fumes to numb his emotional anguish, Love Liza unfolds as a patiently measured study of grief and loss (like the similarly themed Moonlight Mile), and Louiso shows great promise as a sensitive observer of authentic human behavior. With humor and heartbreak, Love Liza taps into what Hoffman does best. --Jeff Shannon

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