“When you’re playing someone who really lived, you carry a burden, a burden to be accurate. But it’s one that you have to let go of ultimately.”
Philip Seymour Hoffman is a cinematic legend. He had the incredible capacity of evoking sympathy, pity and adoration for the most unlikeable characters. With extreme dedication and intricate character building, it seems like Hoffman’s main objective was to add a dimension to characters which are otherwise taken as stock extras. Known for bringing out the character’s anguish, Hoffman’s acting process fascinated audience, critics, directors and actors alike. Having starred mainly in supporting character roles, Hoffman forged a legacy for himself where people often adored and were in awe of him rather than the main protagonist.
Hoffman was a self-proclaimed theatre kid. Born in New York on July 23, 1967, he has admitted how the production of Arthur Miller’s All Of My Sons altered his life and planted in him the love for acting. He would later go on to star as Willy Loman, a disillusioned salesman, in a stage production of Miller’s Death Of A Salesman which would turn out to be one of the greatest highlights of his career After watching the stage production, Hoffman committed to the drama club and soon fell in love with it. Passionate and determined, Hoffman was accepted to study drama at New York University where he worked as an usher and enhanced his skills. It was also at NYU that Hoffman dug his own grave by trying out drugs for the first time.
Initially a frequent on stage presence, Hoffman gradually started receiving roles in TV shows and as supporting characters in the film. He was not quintessentially macho as that of the Hollywood heroes, but that never bothered him. Hoffman was extremely confident and capable and eventually cemented his stature in Hollywood. He first gained public attention with his role opposite Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. It was here that people started sensing greatness in this man. Hoffman credits the film as being his breakthrough moment and for helping him create a name for himself. While making appearances at various theatre productions, Hoffman started investing his time in playing increasingly disillusioned stock characters who are usually termed as ‘losers’. He seemed to have a special place in his heart for them.
One of my personal favourites starring Philip Seymour Hoffman is Charlie Kaufman’s 2008 production Synecdoche, New York. He plays a disillusioned director by the name of Caden who tries to recreate the city inside a dilapidated warehouse as a blueprint of the society we exist in before being trapped in an existential and psychological conundrum. Hoffman’s astounding performance invokes hatred, fear, pity and tears while making one feel unbelievably empty on the inside. Directors who worked with Hoffman were in awe of him, particularly Paul Thomas Anderson whose recurring cast members included Hoffman himself.
Despite his brilliant success in his career, Hoffman was haunted by his drug problem. He had remained sober for nearly 23 years before relapsing again in 2013. This time he was unstoppable, which even caused his family to drift apart. On February 2, 2014, Hoffman was discovered lying lifeless with a syringe in his hand by his friend and playwright David Bar Katz. He died overdosing on a mixture of fatal drugs. Gone too soon, Hoffman leaves behind a rich legacy that boasts of phenomenal and daring performances. He undertook roles that nobody else would and created pure magic.
Netflix sure does not have my favourite film, but it does have 10 of Hoffman’s best films which act as a wonderful tribute to the late actor. Time flies unbelievably fast, and it is almost hard to imagine how Hollywood coped with the loss of such a talented and legendary actor. On the 7th anniversary of his tragic death, let us take a look at Philip Seymour Hoffman’s ten best films that are available on Netflix.
A period piece, the film revolves around Eddie Adams who enters the porn industry, with success and a carefree lifestyle, he is introduced to drugs which lead to his downward spiral. The film also focuses on other people and their place in the industry. The film exposes the secrets of being a pornstar and the kind of life led by them during the Golden Age of Pornography in the 1970s.
For his epic portrayal and fearless performance in this film, Hoffman has been lauded by critics and audience alike; his prowess has been accentuated and he has proved how he can play any role seamlessly. He plays Scotty J., a boom operator, who attempted to seduce one of the male protagonists played by Mark Wahlberg. This film is almost of a cult-classic stature and exposes Hoffman’s raw and emotionally stimulating performance.
“Well, if you just wanna see me jack off, it’s ten. But if you just wanna look at it, it’s only five.”
Based on Michael Lewis’ nonfiction book, the film sees the general manager of Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane join forces with Peter Brand to reinvent the team and win the championship by defeating the wealthier teams by strategy. However, they face a lot of opposition from people, including Athletics manager Art Howe.
Superb in his portrayal, Philip Seymour Hoffman played the role of Howe with effortless ease. However, the film has been attacked for its alleged inaccuracy and partiality in the portrayal of Howe. Art Howe has expressed his hurt and disapproval at being portrayed this way and misrepresented and not being consulted by the creators. He spoke of how he had dedicated his “heart and soul” to the organisation but to no avail.
“We want you at first base, it’s not that hard.”
A romantic drama, this film sees Barry Egan, a bachelor, being constantly ridiculed by his sisters who question his sexuality, driving him to the brink of insanity. He is smitten by his sister’s friend Lena whom he pursues but his lack of self-esteem causes his brother-in-law to provide him with the contact details of a therapist. It turns out to be a phone-sex line where the operator and mattress owner Dean threatens Egan and tries to extort money via blackmailing.
Adam Sandler and Emily Watson are somehow overshadowed by Hoffman’s portrayal of the cunning and sleazy Dean who tries to intimidate Sandler’s character into giving him money. Hoffman who obviously had the incredible flair of leaving an everlasting impression with his quirky self in the tiniest of roles does so once again in this epic comedic performance.
“People are just crazy in this world, I think.”
Risk Analyst Reuben Feffer catches his wife Lisa Kramer cheating on him with a scuba diving instructor during their honeymoon, dejected and hurt, he goes to an art gallery with his best friend Sandy Lyle where the duo runs into their former classmate Polly. Reuben slowly starts developing feelings for the spirited Polly and soon finds himself conflicted over whom to choose as a paramour.
Hoffman stars as Sandy Lyle and proves with his extraordinary performance filled with laughs and gags that no role is too short for him. He leaves an indelible impact within the smallest amount of time allotted to him which makes him special. Despite Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston missing the mark with gross on-screen chemistry, Hoffman shoulders the film alone with an intensely amusing performance.
“I tried to fart and a little shit came out.”
In a film where obsession and lust for money reign supreme, Tom Ripley impersonates the son of a shipping tycoon to win over his affections. However, when the latter rebuffs his advances, he kills the son, assuming his identity. When people close to the murdered Dickie start questioning Ripley’s intent, Ripley embarks on a homicidal rampage, killing anyone who would be a hindrance in his way towards a smooth and secure future, irrespective of their relationship with him.
Matt Damon is brilliant in his execution as Ripley, but Hoffman’s socialite character Freddie Miles, who is a bully and Dickie’s best friend is equally good, if not better. Wild and edgy, Hoffman plays the quintessential rich fool who picks on Ripley. His performance earned high praise from all, including Meryl Streep who was amazed by his brilliance and bravado on-screen. Streep would later go on to be his co-star in upcoming films. She was fascinated by his performance and though he was “fearless”.
“Why is it when men play together, they always try to kill each other?”
Impossible Mission Force agent Ethan Hunt is leading a quiet and peaceful life as a retired man who trains recruits for the IMF. However, he faces the most vicious and challenging mission of his career when he is forced to encounter the dangerous Owen Davian whose cunning and cruelty compels him to threaten to destroy all that is dear to Hunt, including his wife Julia. Hunt must race against the clock to save the woman he loves as well as defeat this foe.
Hoffman played the ruthless and villainous Owen Davian. His powerful performance showed a new side to this actor’s credibility and has often been likened to Alan Rickman’s brave performance in Die Hard. He breathes life into this film which is otherwise a mindless action-flick with unthinkable stunts and an attractive main character.
“You hung me outside of an airplane. You can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they treat people they don’t have to treat well.”
With Fugue String quartet’s 25th anniversary fast approaching, the group is shocked when they learn of Peter Mitchell’s Parkinson’s disease. The second violinist Robert wants to overtake Daniel but is shocked when he learns that even his wife does not support him, causing him to be an infidel. His daughter commences a relationship with Daniel much to her mother’s dismay as the latter secretly pines for the same man.
In this tale of love, loss, heartbreaks and passion which is fuelled by their common love for music, Philip Seymour Hoffman brings out a moving performance as Robert. As a dejected second violinist, Hoffman’s exceptionally emphatic performance brings out his frustration to the core. Considered to be one of his last performances, this film bears testimony to Hoffman’s undying excellence and acting prowess.
“Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future, and time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present, all time is unredeemable.”
Set over a day spent in Los Angeles, the film comprises an epic mosaic of complex and anguished characters whose intertwined lives bring out the common theme of forgiveness and redemption. Two men are on their deathbed and regret being estranged from their children and want to reconnect. The gold-digger wife does not want her dying husband to rekindle the relationship with his son who is angry at his father. A caring nurse looks after the patient and tries to promote reconciliation. The other man who is also a cop meets the daughter and is instantaneously attracted to her.
The theme of guilt and redemption is brilliantly explored by Anderson in this film. It also reflects a delicate and intimate side to Hoffman which was previously unnoticed by the audience and adds a soft glow to the actor’s persona. In his role as the nurse, Phil Parma, Hoffman acts as a guardian angel while caring for the sick and attempting to help him reconcile with his son. His character is in sharp contrast with the ugly and arrogant characters in the film and adds a sense of profundity to the film.
“We may be through with the past, but the past isn’t through with us.”
Adapted from Shanley’s play, this film revolves around a shocking scandal where a priest Father Brendan Flynn, a sexual predator, is accused of sexually abusing Donald Miller, a new 12-year-old African-American transfer student. When he is confronted by the parish school principal, Sister Aloysius, he denies and the latter gears up to coerce this man into leaving, until she comes in contact with Mrs. Miller, Donald’s mother.
A shocking tale, the film brings forward an ugly truth that underlies almost every religious institution. Justifying sexual abuse and tolerating predatory behaviour for economic ascendance brings out the general air of claustrophobia and paranoia in the film. Hoffman as the sleazy Father Flynn does absolute justice to the role; this also won him a second consecutive nomination at the Academy.
“You have no right to act on your own. You have taken vows; obedience being one.”
Joaquin Phoenix’s Freddie Quell is a war veteran who struggles to adapt to the new post-war society. He finds ultimate solace in ‘The Cause’, a philosophical movement that marks the rise of the Church of Scientology, which is led by Lancaster Dodd. In accordance with Paul Thomas Anderson’s film, Jonny Greenwood’s composition comprises rich soundtrack accompanied by ragged and frenzied classical pieces which harvest a sense of paranoia, ambiguity and moral degradation of the society as well as Phoenix’s character.
Philip Seymour Hoffman was considered for playing the character of Lancaster Dodd from the very start. In what is considered one of his most intimidating and enigmatic performances, besides playing the charismatic leader, Hoffman also contributed to the script, making significant changes and playing an instrumental role in helping make Phoenix’s character the protagonist instead of his. It was for his incredible performance that Hoffman won a nomination at the Academy.
“ If you leave me now, in the next life you will be my sworn enemy. “
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