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HTF REVIEW: "Love Liza" (with screenshots) (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

Senior HTF Member
Jul 3, 1997
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


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


Love Liza :star:1/2

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.


Andrew D F

Stunt Coordinator
Feb 26, 2002

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

One point:

It was films like Boogie Nights (1997), and American Beauty (2000) that made me a fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman
Surely you meant Almost Famous (2000).



Senior HTF Member
Sep 13, 1999
Real Name
Chris Caine
pop ballad score - sounds like pop ballad soundtrack (songs).

soundtrack CD
score CD

I'm a fan - will watch!

Ronald Epstein

Senior HTF Member
Jul 3, 1997
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


Mar 10, 2003
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.


Fake Shemp
Senior HTF Member
Sep 20, 2002
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.


Senior HTF Member
Apr 29, 2000
I like downers.
I like "down" films too, but this was too much for me in the cinema. It was just /too/ bleak a film.

And it felt like the trailer "lied" - it presented a very different experience to what I got.

Hoffman is very good in it though.

But it's definitely not everyone's cup of tea.

Derek Miner

Feb 22, 1999
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.

Jeremy Anderson

Nov 23, 1999
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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