Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Jack Kehler, Sarah Koskoff, Stephen Tobolowsky
Todd Louiso, Gordy Hoffman, Ruth Charny, Jeff Roda, Chris Hanley, Fernando Sulichin, Lisa Rinzler, Katz Stein, Anne Stein, Stephen Beatrice, Jim O'Rourke
Wilson Joel is a man in trouble. There's a searing pain in his gut that he can't tolerate and a dazed quietness to his struggle as he tries to maintain equilibrium and move on from the sudden and inexplicable suicide of his wife. His mother-in-law is there for him, but her sympathies turn quickly. He has an employer who seems to want to help him and a work-mate who wants him for herself. But nothing and on one can give solace. So he seeks oblivion. It is not the usual alcohol or drugs. No—Wilson inhales fumes from gasoline cans and model airplane fuel and finds temporary salvation in the company of remote-control model enthusiasts. Yet nothing lasts.
Todd Louiso has created a showpiece of desperation, a wonderfully inspired tale of a survivor and the possibilities and impossibilities for resolution. To this role, Philip Seymour Hoffman brings gentleness and a quixotic humor and humility as Wilson seeks a pathway through his grief. And the film is not simply about despair, for it is full of wit, perceptiveness, and a certain oddness that marks Wilson's quest. Hoffman gives a uniquely special performance that opens us up to the sometimes quirky sensibilities of the film's authors.
Overall, Love Liza is the kind of film-making that rescues independent film from the doldrums of familiarity and formula. Alternately taut and entrancing, it allows us to feel and understand what the anguish of life may hold and the search for humanity that we all share.