Philip Seymour Hoffman: A Double Header Pilgrimage

Living in Rochester, New York grants me the privilege of seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman movies on the big screen once a week for the next few months at the grand Dryden Theater (George Eastman House). And since one of his last movies “The Most Wanted Man” opened at the independent Little Theater on Friday 7/25/14, I gladly took in a double header of PSH films.

Listening to the podcast “On Being” this morning afforded me the musings of an artist by the name of Dario Robleto, “Sculptor of Memory”. Mr. Robleto spoke of how art is our way of keeping deceased family and friends in our memory. Watching the films “State and Main” and “The Most Wanted Man” is an obvious way of memorializing.

Having met PSH very briefly during his visit to the Little for the opening of Flawless doesn’t in any way make me a friend, but being of his generation and having lost a friend to addiction in 2000, keeps me rooted in this loss, in a good way, a way of keeping memories alive.

“State and Main” from 2000 showed that as in Boogie Nights, PSH can deliver poignant vulnerability. I had not seen the film before last Wednesday and was struck by Mamet’s renowned razor sharp dialogue, William H. Macy being the antagonistic foil to PSH’s sweetness. The only thing negative about the film was the cheesey music that curdled in the background of the budding romance scenes between PSH and Mamet’s real life wife, Amy Pidgeon.

I feared going to see “The Most Wanted Man” after spending a miserable couple of hours at the adorable Burns Court Theater in Sarasota Fla watching “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, another John Le Carre novel-turned movie, but hooray for Andrew Bovell, a far better screenwriter!

Instead of the flat terrain of “TTSS”, The Most Wanted Man at least provided an incline to a climactic finish. PSH was never better as a depressed failure of espionage yet a character who still had enough punch to duel with the always fantastic, but in need of a new hair-do, Robin Wright.

And while it may sound shallow to comment on a woman’s hair, I do so, only because of what I discovered in my own life. I found that getting my hair chopped off was one of my tendencies toward self-loathing, along with an ultra strict diet, both of which I am proud to say I moved on from in my more self-confident middle age. Perhaps RW’s hair is a positive choice for her, I’m simply commenting on the sadness in her eyes, maybe more than the characters she portrays. Chalk it up to my Masters in Counseling observation skills.

Certainly seeing a sad over weight PSH mad me sad, but simultaneously I benefited from the beauty of one his last do-not-go-gentle-into-that-good-night performances.
In addition here’s to my friend Mary whose red headed Irish temperament also hung on to her bitter end. To remembering!

Philip Seymour Hoffman God’s Pocket, what an encore!

I was devastated from announcement word one of PSH’s death, not only because he was from my neck of the woods (Rochester area), but I met him once as well, at the hometown debut of his film “Flawless” at the Little Theater in 1999. He was two people; just a guy who seemed sweet and normal and the acting genius that was his career.

Today I saw him in one of his last roles as Mickey Scarpato of John Slattery’s directed “God’s Pocket”. First let me call out any critic who divested the measly 33 % I last spied on Rotten Tomatoes. I have already shown my prejudice, being enamored with PSH’s work, yet even an unsophisticated movie goer could wholeheartedly applaud PSH’s and Richard Jenkins’ performances over the 50% mark.

Philip Seymor Hoffamn may best be remembered decades from now as the consummate sad sack, this time in God’s Pocket cuckolded to an uncaring shrew. And Richard Jenkins (whose poorly written role in the recent college related movie “Liberal Arts” stunk out the dorm room) returned to his master class form with a much more carnivorous role, of a desperate alcoholic journalist.

My favorite scene for poignancy depicted PSH’s Mickey dejectedly undressing to take a despairing Whiteny-esque bath after his wife literally (and figuratively) rejected him. His character makes me want to contact Tammy Wynette to rewrite her famous song into “Stand By Your Woman”, making Hillary Clinton’s forgiveness look like chump change.

The one minor critique of the film is its ending, which I will not spoil here. As my son aptly said, it was too much of a mood change.

Seek out God’s Pocket (though you must look deeply as most mainstream theaters aren’t grabbing this worthwhile indie flick) and let me know if you agree.