The Late, Great Philip Seymour Hoffman

2 Feb
Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Is there any movie where Philip Seymour Hoffman’s presence didn’t make the movie better? I don’t think so. Both character actor and movie star, he is one of those actors whose breadth is hard to conceive of. In a 25 year career, he appeared in over 50 films. He was the Smithers to Lebowski’s Mr. Burns in “The Big Lebowski”, he was so smooth and cunning as Tom Cruise’s nemesis in Mission Impossible: III; he was a no-nonsense CIA officer in “Charlie Wilson’s War”. Was “Capote” his best role? Probably not. Yet in “Capote”, he delivers a truly chameleonic performance, showing the famously narcissistic Truman Capote in both flamboyant and quiet moments.

For me, two roles stand out as the most memorable by Philip Seymour Hoffman: first, Father Flynn in Doubt. The central conceit of the movie is that, just as the nuns at the heart of the film played by Amy Adams and Meryl Streep, we are doubtful as to whether Father Flynn has molested a young boy or not. Are you any clearer on the truth after watching the young priest’s face in this pivotal scene?

The other role is as Andy, one of two brothers who conspires to rob his parents’ jewelry store, in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Things go badly. Hoffman plays a a bully who manipulates a weak brother. He is one of the best things about this taut, suspenseful, criminally underrated thriller.

What a shame that we won’t see him in more movies. Rest in peace.

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