Monday, February 3, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead

Heroin killed my brother ten years ago.

Heroin killed my favorite actor yesterday.

I can't watch Pulp Fiction. I can't watch this scene.

Whatever drove him to this kind of hell--he created a new brand of sexy in art.

Whether the man looked like this,

Or like this.

Our attraction to him had nothing to do with his weight or his style. It was his skill, his nuance, his focus.

He played a range of complicated small parts that--played by anyone else--would have been forgotten, throwaway types meant merely to foil the leading personalities. Instead, he made you wish the movie could focus more on the smaller parts. As a result of the charisma he brought to these parts, we have a slew of movies led by complicated everyman types. Movies with flawed antiheroes at the helm like Lars and the Real Girl, and Social Network owe their existence to Philip Seymour Hoffman. He convinced us that the really interesting stuff was happening to the guys and girls just left of perfect.

Despite the demons that drove him to his death, he worked constantly.

In True West, he and John C. Reilly ruled the stage--even switching characters some nights.

Ben Brantley of The New York Times says this about his performance as the iconic Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. "Mr. Hoffman does terminal uncertainty better than practically anyone, and he’s terrific in showing the doubt that crumples Willy just when he’s trying to sell his own brand of all-American optimism." 

What is terminal uncertainty?


Perhaps Mr. Hoffman died of terminal doubt. Doubt in the fortunes of his future. Doubt in himself. Doubt in the world. Doubt that his death would matter as much as it does.

He taught me that despite whatever doubts I may have--I have stories to tell. He complicated our notions of captivating and drew our focus to a better story. There are still those who tell us to wait until we have the perfect body, that character actors are only supposed to be comic relief to the complicated stories of leading men and women, with leading men and women faces and bodies. Those people would be behind the times that Mr. Hoffman ushered in during his all too short career. 

Thank you for your gifts to us Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hopefully, we'll move forward, filled with hope and not doubt that the world can be a more beautiful place if we allow ourselves to focus left of perfect, and to love ourselves even when we're left of perfect.


Joseph L. Puente said...

A wonderful tribute. Thank you!

Tanja C. said...

What a nice blog entry, Eve. I'm not as familiar with his body of work as you are, but I have certainly enjoyed his performances in several movies. His wikipedia page lists many films he was in that I haven't seen. The ones I have, however, were great performances. We will miss his drama, his comedy, and his talents as a director. I'm sorry this world is full of evils that cause great people to feel so low that they end up gone before their time. Fans worldwide will miss him greatly. Rest in peace, Mr. Hoffman.