Philip Seymour Hoffman by Jeff Lipsky
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut.
Jack Goes Boating, 2010 (dir. Philip Seymour Hoffman)
Capote, 2005 (dir: Bennett Miller)
SLIDE 4: THE OFFICIOUS EXTRA (THE BIG LEBOWSKI)
Just as Hoffman could be slovenly and unkempt, so too could he play prissily neat. In the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski, Hoffman plays a minor, but in no way forgettable, role, as the Big Lebowski’s unctuous aide Brandt, who dismisses the Dude with such persnickety German precision it makes you cringe. But Hoffman’s real genius is not to stand apart, but to fill out the Coen comic caravan. In Variety, Todd McCarthy marked how they all worked together: “As the blustery Walter, Goodman is vastly entertaining, Moore is bracingly assertive in a nice change of pace role, and Philip Seymour Hoffman milks surplus laughs out of his part as Lebowski’s officious assistant.”
SLIDE 10: THE CHARMING HEAVY (BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD)
In Sidney Lumet’s tough (and at times tender) Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Hoffman switched sides with his earlier characters. In this story of a heist gone bad, the shambling, disordered loser role goes to Ethan Hawke, who plays Hoffman’s brother. Hoffman now is the tough-as-nails heavy, a man who commands everyone around him with slippery charm and just the whiff of violence. But as theVillage Voice’s J. Hoberman points out, Hoffman’s various characters are housed in the same weighty presence: “Hoffman uses his bulk as a form of authority and a bulwark against the world; he’s too versatile an actor to be considered playing against type. Andy is a dead-voiced, doughy mass of repressed rage who also has a secret life: He needs money to feed his drug habit and escape an embezzlement charge that’s hanging over his head. Smacked out in a luxury shooting gallery, he tells the epicene proprietor: ‘All my parts don’t add up.’”
SLIDE 13: PILLAR OF HIS OWN WORLD (SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK)
Over the years, Hoffman has moved from scene-stealing side characters to powerful leads strong enough to carry a feature film. But in taking on the role of the theater director with a desire to replicate his life in art in Synecdoche, New York, Hoffman is forced to support the whole world. In her review for the Austin Chronicle, Marjorie Baumgarten explains, “Synecdoche, New York is anchored by the always remarkable Hoffman as upstate New York regional theatre director Caden Cotard, whose marriage, relationships, home, and health are all seemingly crumbling.” One wonders if any other actor could stand unfazed as Charlie Kaufman’s post-modern tower of mirrors collapses around him.
This was also not the film poster for Synecdoche, New York
Currently watching for the first time since Star Trek, and it’s so strange to see Captain Pike playing Jack Dunphy, Capote’s boyfriend.
The Savages, 2007 (dir. Tamara Jenkins)