Goddammit Hoffman. I really liked you – a lot of people really liked you. You put magic on the screen. You could hold it in your hands, and you could take it, and lay it on the table when you wanted. You had your own brand of magnetism – not the the easy kind that comes from being born beautiful, genetic magnetism – but your own kind, which you probably learned to hone, like a craft.
Let me throw out a random Hoffman. There are many out there, because he was versatile. He could do lead roles and character roles. He could be weak and/or pompous. Let’s skip Capote, Almost Famous, The Master* and just randomly fixate on…Punch-Drunk Love. Did you know he was in that? Have you not seen it? That’s fine. Let me help you skip to the relevant parts: It’s a love story with Adam Sandler trying not to be Adam Sandler, and from the beginning, the rhythm is a little off. I couldn’t focus on Sandler, and I couldn’t focus on anything else. Either nothing grabs me or too many things grab for my attention, and the entire thing comes off as vaguely stressful. Up to a point. Because then Philip Seymour Hoffman appears onscreen as a phone sex hotline operator, with his hair shot into a plume, one that bobs when he talks. The man is psychotic, but it’s also the perfect note of psychotic, because the tone of the movie is slightly psychotic, and Hoffman just slips right in. Suddenly, the movie has energy. It’s the Hoffman gravitational pull. It’s a lot more interesting. You find yourself having fun. That’s what Hoffman can do.
Hoffman was also undeniably unique, crazy versatile. He could literally shove himself into a role. As a writer, I notice characters that are a little off. I like them – the weird ones – the ones that are possibly too unrelatable to base a story on. Lead characters are sometimes variations on a theme – cut from the same generic cloth. There’s not much creation involved. But when you write a weird person, there’s that tiny moment of panic because damn, it’s so…so weird. And weird can sometimes turn into repulsive. Who can play this? Who can make this character likable without compromising on the qualities that make him unique? Might I suggest…
I probably had unique expectations for Hoffman. There was a tide of uniformity and shallowness that I fully expected Hoffman to subvert, simply by continuing to do what he does, but no. He has left us, and he will be missed.
*I haven’t seen this, but this will be rectified by the end of the week.