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OBIT: George Grella on the work of Philip Seymour Hoffman


Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)

The sudden death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, an honored son of Rochester, provoked an outpouring of grief and praise from friends, colleagues, critics, and of course his fans and admirers. The world of cinema lost a major talent, a man who excelled in his craft in large and small roles, in dozens of motion pictures.

He is probably, and deservedly, best remembered for his brilliant performance as Truman Capote in "Capote," in which this relatively tall, somewhat corpulent man somehow impersonated the small, slight, elfin writer; he won an Academy Award for that role.

A true character actor, he displayed his talents and skills in supporting parts in a considerable body of work, often in independent, low-budget, offbeat films. He played all sorts of parts with uncanny precision and conviction -- the smug preppie in "The Talented Mr. Ripley," the scandal-sheet reporter in "Red Dragon," the cynical, wised-up political operative in "The Ides of March," the priest in "Doubt."

Most of all, I remember him for his portrayal of lonely, wounded, anxious, sometimes desperate men -- the brother in "The Savages," the would-be robber in "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," the cellar-dwelling limo driver in "Jack Goes Boating," the sad, sweaty phone caller in "Happiness," the degenerate gambler in "Owning Mahowny."

Anyone looking for his legacy should revisit those pictures, where the characters may explain something of the man who played them; perhaps their loneliness and desperation derived from his own, perhaps they express to some degree his own problems and struggles, perhaps they explain his sad, solitary end.

The Little Theatre has announced that it will be screening a tribute series of Hoffman's films February 28-March 2. Check The Little's website for more details as they become available.