HTF REVIEW: "Love Liza" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 29, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Love Liza

    Studio: Columbia/Sony Classics
    Year: 2002
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 90 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Subtitles: French, Portugese, Hindi & Spanish

    A Comic Tragedy

    It was films like Boogie Nights (1997), and
    Almost Famous (2000) that made me a fan of
    Philip Seymour Hoffman, an actor that has made a name
    for himself playing some of the most dysfunctional
    characters in movie history.


    In Love Liza, the actor takes on his darkest
    role to date playing Wilson Joel, a man whose wife
    has just killed herself and left a sealed letter
    behind. As a result of this suicide, Wilson becomes
    numbed beyond all belief, wandering aimlessly around
    getting trashed huffing gasoline.


    The suicide letter remains unopened for most of
    the film. Wilson does not want to read it for
    fear of what contents may lie inside. His strong-
    willed mother-in-law (Kathy Bates), going through
    her own untellable grief over the loss of her
    daughter, wants the note read. When Wilson suddenly
    disappears, she's becomes terribly concerned about
    Wilson's whereabouts and frantically tries to
    discover where he might be.


    The rest of the film deals with Wilson's obsession
    with gasoline huffing. He takes up a hobby of
    flying model airplanes after he learns that the
    fuel for model airplanes is stronger than the
    gasoline he has been sticking his nose into at
    the local pumps. Though the actor receives support
    from well-meaning folks along the way, it only
    seems to complicating things more causing the
    distraught Wilson to go off the deep end.

    Hoffman once again proves his acting versatility
    by giving us a performance full of sensitivity
    and depth. The problem is, the entire 90 minutes
    of this film becomes a hallucinatory downer about
    a man's grievance, his gasoline huffing addiction,
    and spiraling downfall. It's not that I am being
    unsympathetic to anyone who has ever had a similar
    hardship, but there is nothing likeable about this
    film, thus making it very difficult to grasp onto.

    How is the transfer?

    I don't know how this film originally looked, but
    I'll give Columbia the benefit of doubt that this
    an accurate transfer of what was shown theatrically.
    Love Liza is generally not a pleasing visual
    experience. The transfer often looks as depressed
    as the film itself -- full of murky images and
    lots of film grain that may or may not be intentional.
    Images tend to be on the soft side, resulting in a
    loss of detail. There are also small amounts of
    picture blemish scattered throughout. Oddly, there
    are times the film transfer actually becomes more
    normalized sporting improved picture sharpness. The
    film is often quite colorful and well saturated though
    flesh tones can go from looking very normal to overly
    red. Nothing more or less than I would expect from a
    low-budget independent film.

    The film's 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack adds a bit
    of liveliness that is missing from the visuals.
    Audio is full of good dynamics with the fronts
    displaying pleasing imaging and stereo separation.
    The rear channels provide ambient sounds of city
    life as well as supporting the film's alternative
    pop ballad score.

    Special Features


    A full-length commentary features director
    Todd Louiso, writer Gordy Hoffman and actor Philip
    Seymour Hoffman. The only piece of information
    that stuck in my mind after sampling this commentary
    was that the film took 5 years to finance and 24
    days to shoot. I hate to say it, but listening to
    this commentary was about as dull as watching the
    film. I have the utmost respect for all the
    individuals involved in the making of this film, but
    this commentary really never elevates itself above
    being self-congratulatory. Everyone seems to be
    complimenting each other throughout, and though
    the crew does give a little further insight into
    the action occurring on screen, none of it makes
    for a very enjoyable listen.

    In addition to the film's original theatrical
    , there are trailers here for Punch-
    Drunk Love, Adaptation
    and Big Shot's Funeral.

    There are also Filmographies listed for both
    Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kathy Bates.

    Final Thoughts


    While most everyone will agree that Philip Seymour
    Hoffman gives an impeccable performance here, Love
    is an awkward misfire that's just painful
    to sit through.

    Recommended only as a rental to fans of Hoffman.

    Release Date: May 27, 2003

    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
  2. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

    Nov 4, 2000
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    I wrote the following a couple of months ago in the movies section:


    Love Liza [​IMG][​IMG]

    Love Liza deals with the grieving process of Will, an IT tech whose wife just commited suicide. Will's reluctance to open the suicide note is the device used to string the audience along in this otherwise very unfocused movie.

    Somehow the filmmaker must have thougth that watching will wander around in a perpetual gazoline induced high was entertaining - it's not. Perhaps the lack of focus is supposed to represent Will's state of mind? Not very effective.

    None of the characters are even remotely interesting, including the lead. Hoffman does an excellent job as usual, but that alone is not enough to make this one worth it.

  3. Andrew D F

    Andrew D F Stunt Coordinator

    Feb 26, 2002
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    Thanks for the review. This one looked intriguing, but I'll give it a miss based on your comments.

    One point:

  4. ChuckDeLa

    ChuckDeLa Cinematographer

    Nov 26, 2002
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    Did you mean to say dull? Droll means comic in an odd way, whimsical.
  5. Yumbo

    Yumbo Cinematographer

    Sep 13, 1999
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    pop ballad score - sounds like pop ballad soundtrack (songs).

    soundtrack CD
    score CD

    I'm a fan - will watch!
  6. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Do me a favor -- if you see any typo mistakes
    in my review, alert email instead of turning these
    threads into something they shouldn't be.

    I'm working at a pace of 3 DVD reviews a day and
    I often make mistakes that I don't catch in a
    single proffread. Be polite and alert me
    privately to any problems you may see.

    Thanks much
  7. BrianBu

    BrianBu Auditioning

    Mar 10, 2003
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    It's worth noting that this was the directorial debut of Todd Luiso (the shy quiet employee to Jack Black's loud guy in High Fidelity). Hopefully he can learn from his mistakes and make a better film next time.
  8. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

    Dec 30, 2002
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    Roanld, but pointing out mistakes others make makes us feel better about ourselves.
  9. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

    Sep 20, 2002
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    Real Name:
    Are you passing on this movie because its a downer, or because it's a technically poorly made film? I like downers.

    I plan on renting this, I'll slip in a mini-review into this thread at that time.
  10. BrianB

    BrianB Producer

    Apr 29, 2000
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  11. Derek Miner

    Derek Miner Screenwriter

    Feb 22, 1999
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    I was curious how this review would be when I saw Love Liza on the upcoming review schedule.

    I caught this one a couple months back at the local arthouse, and considering the talent involved, I was expecting something much more interesting.

    I did feel there were some very interesting moments and some excellent acting, but I did think the last third became a stereotypical "indie film," which killed any momentum the story might have had.
  12. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
  13. Jeremy Anderson

    Jeremy Anderson Screenwriter

    Nov 23, 1999
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    A great deal of this movie was shot where I live (Mobile, AL), so I imagine I'll buy it just so we can sit around and say "Oooh, I know where that is!" I'd rent it... but that would mean giving money to Blockbuster. Besides, the only other movies I know of that were filmed here are Under Siege and Stone Cold, so I suppose I should support my town's recently burgeoning film industry.

    Good review, Ron! It didn't quite dissuade me from seeing it, but it did let me know what I'm in for.

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