Written by Gordy Hoffman and starring his brother, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, this film chronicles a web designer's emotional meltdown in the wake of his wife's sudden suicide. Wilson Joel (Hoffman) becomes mired in an unruly, overwhelming miasma of grief after Liza (whom we see only once, in a fleeting flashback) asphyxiates herself in their garage. He rejects his mother-in-law's (Kathy Bates) efforts to share the burden of bereavement, can't bring himself to open the suicide note he eventually finds under his pillow, and unnerves his co-workers with inappropriate outbursts. Told to take a vacation, Wilson returns to the beachside resort where he and Liza honeymooned, which does nothing to address his deep feelings of dislocation and despair. Wilson starts huffing gasoline to assuage his misery, and when his supervisor (Sarah Koskoff) notices the fumes, he invents an interest in remote-controlled model airplanes as a cover. She enlists the help of her annoyingly persistent brother-in-law, Denny (Jack Kehler) a genuine remote-control enthusiast in cheering Wilson up, and the two spend an awkward afternoon together flying the plane Wilson hastily buys. Fume-addled and increasingly undependable, Wilson loses his job and takes to the road, crossing paths again with Denny and experiencing a series of small, odd adventures. But he remains paralyzed by the inability to confront his deep and conflicted emotions, embodied in his ongoing refusal to open Liza's letter. Actor-turned-director Tom Luiso's first feature is a small-scale character study that pivots on a man not doing something and not a very big something either, at least not in cinematic terms. It benefits from solid performances across the board, and Hoffman's depiction of despondency is convincingly raw and unsightly. But the tone is inconsistent sometimes it seems to be straining for black comedy, other times it seems dead serious and it's hard to reconcile his precipitous descent from a solid professional life to reckless gas sniffing. Self-destructive devastation cuts across all social lines, but a drug or alcohol bender would have felt more in keeping with his age mid-30s and apparently middle-class finances. Combined with the truly awful soundtrack, a collection of whiny alternative pop ballads that spell out Wilson's emotional state, this distracting discrepancy undermines what might otherwise be a frank depiction of staggering sorrow.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: R
- Review: Written by Gordy Hoffman and starring his brother, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, this film chronicles a web designer's emotional meltdown in the wake of his wife's sudden suicide. Wilson Joel (Hoffman) becomes mired in an unruly, overwhelming miasma of grief af… (more)