Love Liza (2002) Poster

(2002)

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7/10
Bereft
jotix1001 December 2005
One never knows how grief will affect anyone. The loss of a loved one is something no one is prepared for. When tragedy strikes, as it's the point of this film, the surviving spouse is so desolate that he cannot deal with his loss. That is why Wilson, the grieving husband of Liza goes to the deep end trying to cope with her untimely death.

Liza's death is not spoken of until Wilson receives a telephone call from the local newspaper editor that is trying to write an obituary about her death and asks whether he wants to mention the suicide, or not. We get a clue about what happened to Liza when Wilson goes to the garage and sees her car. This is a link, perhaps, as to why he resorts to sniffing gasoline, as a way to obliterate the tragedy from his mind, as Wilson tries to comprehend what could have motivated her suicide.

"Love Liza" is a different kind of film. It will irritate some viewers, but ultimately, it will reward those that stay with the story. The screen play written by Gordy Hoffman could have used some editing, but his story feels real. Todd Luiso directed with conviction.

The film's main character, Wilson, is brilliantly played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, one actor who is always a pleasure to watch for the intensity he brings to his appearances. In fact, his Wilson is one of the best roles he has played. Kathy Bates, on the other hand, as the mother of the dead Liza, is only seen briefly, but her scenes convey the impression how this woman is suffering as she seeks answers about her daughter's untimely departure. Sarah Koskoff, Stephen Tobolowsky and Jack Kehler, especially, make good contributions to the film.

This film is a must for Phillip Seymour Hoffman's fans.
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a searing study of grief
Buddy-5117 August 2003
Philip Seymour Hoffman has made a career out of playing deeply depressed characters. In `Love Liza,' he has found what might well be his most perfectly suited role to date, that of a young man trying to come to terms with the suicide of his wife.

Written by Gordy Hoffman and directed by Todd Louiso, `Love Liza' is a searing study of grief, one that chronicles the many stages a man goes through in coping with this type of tragedy. Wilson first finds himself unable to sleep in the same bed he used to share with his wife. Then he returns to the place where they spent their honeymoon in a vain attempt to find some solace or answers there. Then there's the turn towards self-destruction as he seeks escape from his pain by inhaling mass quantities of gasoline. All along the way, well-meaning friends, colleagues and family members proffer what they can in the way of support and sympathy but, invariably, they find themselves ill-equipped to deal with grief at this level of intensity. This is even the case with Mary Ann, Wilson's understanding mother-in-law, who is having to cope with her son-in-law's dysfunction while also dealing with her own grief at the loss of her daughter.

The title of the film comes from a signed suicide note Liza left to Wilson under his pillow. That letter, which Wilson cannot bring himself to open, only adds to the man's despair, for he fears it may reveal that he was somehow responsible for his wife's actions. Thus, wracked with guilt as well as grief, Wilson slides ever further into that deep dark hole of despair. The filmmakers, in an effort to mitigate some of the misery inherent in the subject matter, invest the story with a number of sly, quirky touches, such as Wilson's sudden obsession with mechanized toy airplanes. But the overwhelming sadness is never far from the film's surface.

`Love Liza' is, at its core, an actor's film – and the cast proves itself worthy of the challenge. Hoffman's portrait of a man whose entire meaning for existence has been knocked out from under him is devastating in its understatement and power. Kathy Bates turns in an equally fine and subdued performance as his grieving mother-in-law, and Sarah Koskoff and Jack Kehler offer fine support.

Is `Love Liza' a `dark' film? Absolutely. But it is also a brave, insightful and compelling one for those willing to enter its world. It may not be easy to watch, but it is probably harder not to.
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9/10
This is not your mother's film about death of a loved one
darthmaus11 February 2003
This is not 'Terms of Endearment'. This film does not offer answers, explanations, or resolution, and as such I found it to be a very effective portrayal of the aftermath of a suicide.

It's not an enjoyable film to watch, but it's very much worthwhile. First off, the acting is fantastic. Philip Seymour Hoffman deserves all the raves he's getting for this role -- he's downright painful to watch. All of the supporting cast -- except for the mother-in-law portrayed by Kathy Bates, who is exhausted with her own grief -- brilliantly introduces nuances of discomfort. It's not overdone, but it's obvious that these characters are internally dealing with the question of how to deal with Hoffman's character Wilson, who has just suffered this terrible and shocking loss. The dialogue is consistently and realistically not natural, in keeping with the awkward position of the supporting characters and Wilson's deteriorating mental health.

I have seen this film criticized because Wilson's position is *so* dreary, that it may seem over-the-top, unrealistic. But, really, the character's wife recently shot herself. What bright spots were such critics expecting in this character's life at this time? I believe the writing of the plot is realistic in this regard.

Structurally, it's brave, risky, and effective. I felt alienated by the lack of explanation and resolution of Wilson's position. Not a positive emotion to walk out of a film with, but extremely powerful. The sparse soundtrack and the painfully sympathetic supporting characters all added to this feeling of alienation.
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6/10
Love Liza
nycritic17 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
There are some people who, despite the tragedy which befalls them, are able to move on with their lives without letting the pain become so all-consuming as to stop all conscious action. There are others, however, for whom loss and pain become synonymous of living in a state of arrested development that eventually spins out of control. This is the case of Wilson Joel (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who, after his wife Liza has killed herself, sees little reason to go on with his life and eventually stops going to work to nurture a growing addiction to gasoline. At 89 minutes, LOVE LIZA tries to tell an honest story of a man unable to pick himself up and move on, but because the man in question isn't quite sympathetic and scenes wander without an apparent purpose it seems a little too long, and when a crucial confrontation scene with his mother-in-law (Kathy Bates) arrives, it feels very belated and we understand that Wilson may not return to his former life. Too depressing at times, this is only for indie aficionados.
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10/10
Beautiful, Sad, and a Little Bit Wacky
mcnally10 September 2002
I saw this film at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival. This is the feature directorial debut of actor Todd Louiso (and yes, he talks and acts exactly like his character in High Fidelity). Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Wilson Joel, a man whose wife has committed suicide before the film begins. We follow Wilson as he tries to carry on, unable to open the suicide note she left for him, becoming addicted to sniffing gasoline fumes, and trying to make friends among radio-control car/boat/plane enthusiasts. If it sounds a bit wacky, it is. It's also beautiful and very very sad. Hoffman is a genius at playing lovable sad sacks, and he's even better than usual here, carrying the entire picture on his slumped shoulders. The wonderful Jack Kehler (who played the artistic superintendent in The Big Lebowski) provides excellent comic relief. Philip's brother Gordy Hoffman wrote the screenplay, and the film took four years to get made. Obviously a labour of love. A gorgeous melancholy soundtrack from Jim O'Rourke adds immeasurably to an already powerful film.
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7/10
Unremittingly Grim
yespat16 February 2007
Before you watch this film you must ask yourself, how depressed am I? There is not a bright light in this film anywhere. If you are already on the edge and don't want to go over, I would not recommend watching this film.

That said, Phillip Seymour Hoffman gave an Oscar-worthy performance. He was completely terrific and should have won the Oscar for this film. Kathy Bates was great too. Everyone was great. The story was believable and well scripted.

But, unless you enjoy slumming in depression, I would forgo watching this film. There are too many other films that offer even the smallest ray of positivity to spend your time on this one. A tiny smile generated from a film is, in my humble opinion, better than being left looking for the razor blades.

I gave it a 7 because of the craftsmanship exhibited by the actors and filmmakers. If I had to give it a rating on how it made me feel afterward, I'd probably have to give it a 1.
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10/10
Loved Love Liza!
SwooooP26 October 2003
Love Liza is a not a movie for everyone. Its kind of slow but that is kind of the point. We meet Wilson Joel, beautifully portrayed by one of my favourite actors Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who has lost his wife, Liza. His wife has committed suicide, and our friend is seriously struggling with his loss. He finds Lizas suicide letter, and Wilson who has great problems solving his grief is unable to read the letter.

I found this movie to be really good. Like I said, it's not a movie for everyone, but If you like movies that shows personal drama in a non-Hollywood fashion, you might like this one. Kathy Bates plays Lizas mother, an as always, she does a hell of a job.
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9/10
A dark look at the life of an unfortunate individual.
elitisteloquence5 August 2003
In short, this movie did precisely what it intended to do. After his spouse committs suicide, Hoffman's character finds himself on a dark journey of the heart. Depressed and hopeless, he turns to a dangerous drug to find solace. I have never seen grief portrayed as well as I have seen in this flick. If you allow yourself to become engaged with Mr. Hoffman's character, you will find yourself walking along in his slow, trudging shoes. You will find yourself struggling for rhyme, reason and redemption just like him. Some may argue that the character never evolves, or developes. That my friends, is the point of this masterpiece.
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6/10
A difficult to watch downer
bandw26 March 2006
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Wilson, a software engineer who has just lost his wife to suicide. The movie traces Wilson's descent into gasoline sniffing, erratic behavior, wanton risk taking, and ultimate self-destruction.

P.S.H. and Kathy Bates turn in good performances but, whereas Hoffman is the central focus, his performance is a little more mannered and forced than we have come to expect from him.

Maybe there is no more meaning to grief than as a highly personal experience, but as a moviegoer having suffered through this man's trauma for an hour and a half I wanted more reward. The hook to keep us interested was the suicide note, but it turned out to be rather generic. At the end we are just left with lots of questions: what was Wilson's wife like, did he drive her to suicide, how come he had no friends, what was it in the relationship that the suicide knocked him for such a loop, what was he like before the suicide, does the final scene imply that Wilson has taken the final step into madness or that the only way for him to recover was to leave everything behind?

If you are a P.S.H fan, then maybe there is enough here for you, but I think this movie will be a little too dark for most viewers.
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9/10
Good film, made Brilliant by superb performances
wesvanhorn2 August 2005
"Love Liza" is a great film. A story about depression and the effect loved ones have on each other, it elicits all kinds of emotions from the audience: Laughter, Sadness, Anger. It deals with two subjects that are not easily displayed on film: Drug Use and Suicide, but deals with them in a brilliant way. After the death of his wife, Wilson (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), is thrown into a state of depression. He finds his wife's suicide note but does not want to open for fear of its contents and begins huffing gasoline to try to steer clear of the pain. Phillip Seymour Hoffman IS Wilson and does not skip a beat the entire film. He is one of this generations greatest actors, and this film shows why. Jack Kehler as Denny turns in a tremendous performance as well as Kathy Bates as Wilson's mother-in-law. Good film, made brilliant by superb performances.
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Showcasing Hoffman
essent2 June 2003
I call Philip Seymour Hoffman my favorite actor, so of course when I found a movie where he is the center of attention (not usually the case) I felt obligated to see it. His older brother wrote the screenplay, no doubt with Philip in mind for the part.

To tell you the truth, the overall feel of the movie wasn't so great. I'm sure that Hoffman played the character well, but we only get to see this character in this very strange part of his life. There's no context to judge how much of his behavior is situational. He seems to be cracking up, laughing at the office in a way that makes the others leave the area, and generally behaving in a way that shows lack of judgment. We understand that his wife just took her own life, it's revealed early on in the film, so we understand why he is behaving the way he is, we just don't know what he's normally like. I enjoyed Jack Kehler's character. He seems to be the kind of person you'd like to avoid talking to more than just briefly, but it makes sense that he gets on well with Hoffman's character during his time of turmoil. There were some things they chose to put in the movie (like his glass falling over at the beach, the flowers falling over at the cemetery, and the glove compartment not shutting) that felt like they would happen in real life - like real life metaphors, and I appreciated that element. I thought the gas huffing was a little strange until I read that there was a definite connection to the way his wife died. It's a tricky film to judge. It's hard to empathize with character because he's just so outside the norm, but it's easy not to judge him because it's hard to imagine anything much worse happening to a person.

If you really like Philip Seymour Hoffman I would tell you to go ahead and rent the film, I would at the same time tell you to keep your expectations lowered.
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8/10
Hard to watch and Hard to forget
joe-baker14 July 2006
I think PSH is wonderful in this movie and it really shows his incredible acting abilities in a very raw way.

This is a tragic, tragic film that demonstrates the waves of destruction that emanate from suicide. It shows the decline of a ordinary man doing well to a self destructive huffing addict. You could watch this with your wife, if she can stay awake, and then you'll find yourselves discussing it for weeks.

Don't expect to discover the moral, learn lessons or take away answers from this movie. The beauty of this movie is that it leaves more questions than answers. Its a movie that inspires thinking and a barrage of unanswered questions left in your head. Any movie that inspires so much thought after it is over is a real winner to me.
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Metaphor, not reality (spoiler)
joebenaiah9 July 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This film is hard to wrap your head around at first. Rather then give the viewer closure, it gives an extremely oblique ending. Why was Wilson walking down the road in only his underwear. (As a friend of mine pointed out about Bill in vol. 2, Where exactly was he walking to? Did he want to check out his garden with his last 5 steps?) I think that the ending is supposed to be a metaphor, rather then a literal interpretation.

Possible meanings: 1) The obvious metaphor is that Wilson is destroyed by the fire and is reborn. The match lights the destruction of his life and he is reborn. He wanders out into the world ready to begin again, a phoenix from the ashes.

2) Maybe the match combined with his huffing kill him and the metaphor is that in the end he is destroyed by her . The true victims of are those closest to the deceased and maybe the metaphor is that he is destroyed utterly by her choice. After all his of choice is similar to her method of , he carries a physical representation of her with him everywhere and he is only able to comes to terms with her after he has lost everything.

One last question: What was the significance of the scene of his wife drying after a shower? I love as much as the next guy but it seemed kind of random. If it was a hallucination, why her drying off?

I realize this isn't exactly groundbreaking stuff here but this is my first try.
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8/10
Phillip Seymour Hoffman enthralled me!
choclit_cherrikisses27 September 2003
Though the movie seemed to lack something, Phillip Seymour Hoffman's magical performance will keep you glued to the set. I have always been a big fan of Hoffman's, but this movie shows the talent and skill this man holds as he becomes his character Wilson; a man who becomes a gasoline sniffing addict after his wife commits suicide. Throughout the movie, he holds the unopened letter his wife wrote him before her death, as he goes through life sniffing gasoline and picking up the hobby of flying remote controlled airplanes. Though it sounds odd, Hoffman holds you through the whole movie as the severely depressed Wilson, so much so that you just want to reach through your set and rescue him.
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7/10
Phillip Seymour Hoffman carried this movie brilliantly
coedog328 August 2003
This movie had decent directing, decent story, well done cinematography. The only thing that really made it worth watching was Seymour Hoffman's awesome performance. The movie was a bit quiet at times, I think there was a point in the movie when not a word was said for at least ten minutes. But if your someone who'll see a movie just for the acting, than this one is worth renting, probably not buying though, it's far too depressing.
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Moving...emotional, tremendous acting
MartyZ23 July 2003
I'd like to point out that this isn't a Todd Solondz movie, as one user commented here. The director is Todd Louiso. Let's read the credits a bit more carefully in the future, m'kay?

Hoffman is known for playing the down-on-his luck type, and he does an unbelievable job in this. If you're wondering what it'd be like to lose someone you care about deeply to suicide, Hoffman captures this perfectly in his character Wilson.
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Dimensional
tedg23 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

I have only a handful of living male actors that interest me, far fewer than the similar list of actresses. Hoffman is in that group, not because he is an intense and skilled actor, but because he understands the larger shape of cinema and how to integrate with it.

Many viewers will see this and really think the story matters. Or that it is an opportunity for an actor to create a deep character, as directed by another actor. Well, yes; those things matter, but they are not where the magic is designed.

The point of this experiment is to integrate the space created by the actor with that created by the filmmaker. This is all about dimension and is so successful it belongs on everyone's best list.

The character is an aircraft CAD (computer aided design) designer, someone who creates 3-d models of airplanes that only exist in the computer - at least initially. For those who have never experienced this, doing CAD work can be magically transporting: you can be quite literally transported to another world where you have some control and presence. Creating CAD models is not at all unlike acting, at least the kind Hoffman does. At the beginning, his geek friends are talking about entering the model from another direction.

Every shot is framed by the director to be dimensional, even when it contradicts film-school blocking templates. In every such shot, Hoffman seems to be aware of the artificial world he is inhabiting/creating and adjusts his gestures and presence. He doesn't just accommodate, he aggressively helps create.

He has to take a job as a web designer (using 'racer' computers). Just as the actor has to be engaged in a 'story.'

The story obliges the metaphor; he literally gets involved with model airplanes, real ones. He gets involved with huffing, which I am told affects visual perception first, primarily dimension. Watch the clever folding of the actor who creates dimension and the character who simultaneously deprecates it.

... an unopened message.

Oh, don't under any circumstances listen to the DVD commentary.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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Seymour Hoffman is the best there is
jhoffman-2027 September 2005
Love Liza showcases two spectacular performances by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Kathy Bates. Since the movie is all about grief, the husband and the mother, I was thankful that there wasn't a sentimental note that manipulated the viewer. Hoffman is truly remarkable in his ability to contain the most obvious outward manifestations of grief. Only when confronted by his mother-in-law is he seen loosing his grip on the drug-filled comma he has put himself in by sniffing gasoline. Kathy Bates is flawless. Her character has her own agenda; her need to know why her daughter killed herself, an insatiable need to know, to blame her son-in-law. His detachment and her insistence is fodder for another level of pain that Hoffman's character cannot endure. Love Liza is no picnic, its as dark as it gets but watching Hoffman's performance is like watching a train wreck, you can't look away.
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7/10
The beaches of New Orleans
ferguson-621 February 2003
Greetings again from the darkness. It has been a week since I saw this and I am still not sure what to make of it. Philip Seymour Hoffman comes through beautifully in his first true lead role. He magically captures the private pain and freedom associated with losing a loved one. Hoffman's brother, Gordy, wrote the screenplay and it is brilliant in its ability to make the audience (and sometimes its lead character) smile, even laugh during a most sorrowful time. Kathy Bates delivers a strange, but effective performance as the grieving-wanna be- helpful mother-in-law. Two terrific supporting roles from the great Stephen Tobolowsky and Jack Kehler. Director Todd Louiso (Dick from "High Fidelity") lets us examine our feelings on mourning and how individualistic the process can be. Who knows what is the right way to grieve, or when enough is enough? Trying to find yourself after losing a part of your life is not necessarily a 12 step program, nor should it be. Re-discovering life can be painful and exhilarating and this movie shows both sides pretty well.
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5/10
By the time the movie was half over, I didn't care if he opened the letter or not.
xxxneon9 January 2003
Warning: Spoilers
(some spoilers)

I can usually tell how good a film is based on its trailer. This one was no exception, but I went to see it anyway.

Before she shot herself in the head, Liza wrote Wilson Joel (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a suicide note. But he can't bring himself to read it. He takes time off work (aerospace, website design or some such) to go on holiday to chill out. And, apparently, to strategize how he'll alienate and lie to anyone who tries to help him through his crisis. This includes his mother-in-law, Mary Ann (Kathy Bates), who alternates between being nice and getting in the way.

His brother-in-law, Denny (Jack Kehler), is into remote control planes, boats and cars, so he pretends to be, also. Turns out his true interest is the fumes. Alas, the majority of dialogue in this picture is Wilson pleading with gas station attendants and hobby shop owners to get more of the stuff and throwing hissy fits with them and the authorities when things don't go his way. That and a debate on New Orleans's lack of beaches. To his credit, he does buy a couple planes along the way. Did I mention he sleeps on the floor because it's "a place [he] found" and he goes to the zoo to see the sun bears?

Depressing fare, this, but NOT in a meaningful sort of way. By the time the movie was half over, I didn't care if he opened the letter or not. If you ask me, his wife was better off dead. Not only that, I already knew what the major plot "twist" near the end was going to be.

Hoffman and Bates's performances are upstaged by Sarah Koskoff in the role of Wilson's boss, Maura, and by two teenage fumes addicts (Daniel Farber and Kelli Garner). Under the aegis of misery loves company, Wilson gives them gas and fuel so they can get high. At first, he recommends they just get drunk instead, to which one replies, "We don't like it." Sounds reasonable to me.

Good movies should tell a story-one with a beginning, a middle and an end. This one's all middle and a muddling one at that. If I'd have said "What?" at every non-credible event herein, I'd have been thrown out of the theatre. Wilson NEVER thinks clearly, which for a high-tech go-getter, not even his depression and his fumes can account for. Even when I've had a whole pitcher of Coors Light, I can still shoot a mean game of pool, operate a jukebox and carry on a normal conversation.

If you're looking for scenery in a feature film, you'll need to look elsewhere. Prescott, AR and Slidell, LA are not exactly my idea of location, location, location. And to think if they'd gone a few miles farther east on I-10, they could've used the spectacular bridge over Lake Ponchatrain. Oh well.

Then there's the soundtrack. For easy listening music in a film to be overbearing isn't, well, easy. But here it is, every single time. Where's Enya when you need her? She obviously decided to stay away after reading the script.

The main consideration for me in rating films is memorability and this one just doesn't have it. It's good I'm writing this down, since a week from now I couldn't tell you what the heck this movie was about.
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An exceedingly poor film.
misterjones15 October 2002
Warning: Spoilers
"Love Liza" is about the impact his wife's suicide has on one Wilson Joel, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Unfortunately, writer/director Gordy Hoffman (Philip's brother) fails to recognize that in order for this to have any relevance to the audience, we are going to have to know something about the pair before the suicide. As it is, we know nothing, and what we learn throughout the film doesn't generate much more than a sense of tedium.

SPOILERS WITHIN!!!

I sensed trouble early in the film when Wilson's mother-in-law, played by Kathy Bates, finds him sleeping in his car. The camera lingers endlessly on son and mother-in-law's reflections in the car mirror, signifying the mirror images of their grief. It seems like an amateur filmmaker's attempt to present a profound image.

We then watch throughout the film as Wilson refuses to read his wife's suicide note but holds on to it as a kind of obsession. His grief takes him over, and he is soon addicted to sniffing gasoline. Yes, sniffing gasoline. He attempts to explain his need for it to the gas station attendant by claiming to use it for his model airplanes. Somehow the attendant is sceptical. As time drones on, Wilson fails to live up to his work responsibilities and sinks further and further into his addiction. After his house is robbed, he breaks into his mother-in-law's home and finds his belongings there. She, in a shell-shocked state, has at last opened and read the suicide note, which really doesn't say much of anything. However, by reading it himself, Wilson is able to put his misery behind him, which he does by burning down his house and walking off onto the highway. Again, an amateurish metaphor.

Incredibly, the film clocks in at only 93 minutes as it covers a few weeks in the life of Wilson Joel. It seems interminable, and you might find yourself wondering if another month's bills are due by the time it is over.

Philip Seymour Hoffman has established a successful career as a character actor on stage and screen over the past few years, and one can certainly understand why he would want to branch out and carry a film on his own. One can only wish him better luck next time. His performance here is fairly monotonous, although that could easily owe more to the material than to his work. The usually magnificent Bates fares no better. Only Jack Kehler makes a positive impression as Wilson's friend Denny.

I do not see much love in the future for "Love Liza".
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9/10
It takes you to the nearest gas station
stefant29 November 2003
Again we see that, Philip Seymour Hoffman has never appeared in a bad movie, this one, he should have recieved an Oscar for, it is never boring though it´s not an action movie.It´s so dark and twisted and so amazingly funny.

This is a must see for all movie fans though it´s absolutely not a mainstream picture.

Lean backwards and enjoy. I gave it a 9 (Imdb) rating system
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1/10
don't see this movie. SPOILER ALERT!!!!
randerson37011 February 2007
The most useless, depressing movie ever! No hero. No tension. No humor. There is no reason to watch this movie...ever. Hoffman is OK I guess, but his acting in this film ranges from catatonic to asleep. I don't mind depressing movies necessarily (Happiness, Weather Man for example are good ones) but this is just a waste of time. Kathy Bates is under-utilized, the landlord from The Big Lebowski is OK. I mean, a main character you don't like and don't care about? Why? SPOILER: the suicide note that you have been waiting for the whole movie is dumb, and the ending just leaves you wondering why. Why to the whole bloody thing!
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1/10
Mediocrity comes to life!
beachhead1385 June 2003
The packaging describes Love Liza as a "comic tragedy" and apparently some people feel that the movie is meant to be funny. Personally, I don't see whats funny about destroying yourself in a very anti-social fashion out of a pure self-pity but that didn't bother me so much.

What did bother me were the things this movie lacked. I had no sense of who the wife was or the relationship between her and husband and what factors may have driven her to commit suicide. Kathy Bates character (the dead wife's mother) is completely irrelevant as a result of this.

The romanticizing of Hoffman's gas huffing is little over the top. Okay, so his wife stuffed a rag in her exhaust pipe and killed herself. I don't see how that would drive a person to be obsessed with soaking rags in gasoline and inhaling the fumes as a form of escapism. Heroin addiction seems more commonplace than gas huffing.

To sum things up: Philip Seymour Hoffman is a great actor and delivers a strong performance. It's apparent that the director of this movie was much more concerned with artsy shots of freeways, Hoffman occupying his empty house and his run ins at gas stations and hobbyshops than developing the storyline. Plus, the run-ins with his brother-in-law (a token indy film weirdo) were completely unnecessary.
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6/10
Sometimes close-ups are too pretentiously close......
wisewebwoman24 May 2004
By the end of this movie I knew more about Philip Seymour Hoffman's eyelashes and acne pits than he knows himself. This was straining to be an Important Movie about grief with all of its intense close-ups but fell far short. I normally admire movies that are character driven, and here the main character trudges through mud but oh so slowly, far too slowly. Yes I understand him (immature, petulant, inappropriate) but this leaves me with the strongest of desires to know why Liza married him, was she equally this way, or the opposite? Why did she kill herself? Philip does a great job as always with the limited material he has. But the disappointing part was that I found, at the end, when all was said and done, I just did not care whether he lived or died. Way too narcissistic ( look how he treats the glue sniffing kids). And yes, I am aware he is immature in his addictive processes himself. Jack Kehler as Denny stole the show. 6 out of 10.
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