Thanks to PT Anderson, the Coens and other leading lights of the indie scene, Philip Seymour Hoffman has carved out a career niche as chubby character actor par excellence. Leading-man roles, however, have eluded him - and probably would have continued to do so had his brother Gordy not written one for him.
Todd Louiso's film plays to Hoffman's strengths by casting him as a bereaved young widower whose bizarre response to his wife's inexplicable suicide is to regress into childhood, sniff petrol and fall in with a community of remote-control model enthusiasts. While mother-in-law Kathy Bates tries to shake him from his torpor, Hoffman falls in with über-nerd Denny (Jack Kehler), a model builder whose introspection almost matches his own.
Even without his faculties impaired by gas fumes, Hoffman cuts a pitifully childlike, dislocated figure, stubbornly refusing to open the letter his wife left before she topped herself lest it ruin his idyllic image of their time together. But while his character is an infuriatingly remote one, Love Liza is still a likeable quirkfest that treats thorny issues with style, insight and offbeat humour.
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