Tag Archives: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Mary and Max (2009)

“When I was young, I invented an invisible friend called Mr Ravioli. My psychiatrist says I don’t need him anymore, so he just sits in the corner and reads.”

Cast: Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana

Mary and Max

Mary Daisy Dinkle is a lonely 8 year old girl living in Australia. She has no friends, comes from a broken home and is often teased at school for a birthmark on her forehead. One day she decides to write to a random person from the phone
directory and by pure chance, chooses Max Jerry Horowitz. Max is a 44 year old obese man who lives in New York. He suffers with severe mental problems that have left him without many close friends of his own.

After the exchange of a few letters an unlikely friendship is struck up between the two, and so the story follows their letters back and forth over a period of 20 years.

Mary and Max, hands down, has to be one of the best claymation films I have ever seen. I also
never really expected a film like this to leave such a lasting impression on me, but it has.

As a dark comedy, Mary and Max is such a step away from these glossy, generic animations pouring out of Hollywood that it makes you sit up and take notice. What we have here isn’t a cliched piece of work, but something that feels original, personal and innovative. Rather than going for the biggest audience possible, the story has stuck to some of its more heavy plot lines and kept true to its roots. Whether than means sacrificing some of its potential audience, never mind, as it secures the film as one above the rest.

The first wonderful feature you will notice about the film is that it is narrated (by Barry Humphries). It gives the film a beautiful ‘storybook’ feel and really suits its nature. It must be noted though, that just because Mary and Max is an animation doesn’t necessarily mean it’s aimed at a young audience. The film surprisingly tackles issues ranging from depression to
alcoholism and in my eyes, could be classed as more of an adult’s film. However, the scenes in which these heavier things happen aren’t too traumatising and with a nice narrater giving us the low down, it distracts from some of the heavier topics.

The film is also wonderfully funny. With Philip Seymour Hoffman as the voice of Max, we get a great delivery of Max’s lines, which are accompanied by a strong New York accent, very suited to his burly figure. This bumbling, naive man is a real treasure and having him struggle throughout life with a mental illness is really heartbreaking. However it does ensure a sense of innocence follows, which is perhaps why he connects with Mary so well.

Bethany Whitmore voices a young Mary and it just fits superbly with the character. Managing to get to the core of Mary, Whitmore really understands the young, troubled girl and gives a wonderful performance. Toni Collette and Eric Bana play smaller roles yet they are as equally as impressive as the bigger ones; this cast has been well thought out and it shows.

Mary and Max is a brilliant adaptation of a true story. Told through claymation, it has to be one of the most endearing stories and is voiced by some great people. I can’t recommend this film enough.

Star rating:  8.5/10

Directed by Adam Elliot.

Running time 92 minutes.

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The Ides of March (2011)

“It doesn’t matter what you thought. It matters what you did. It matters what you didn’t do.”

Cast:  Paul Giamatti, George Clooney and Philip Seymour Hoffman

I would be much more interested in politics if George Clooney and Ryan Gosling were actually running for office.

As the film opens Governor Mike Morris and Senator Ted Pullman, both who want to be President, are campaigning against each other to win the state of Ohio. Hoping to secure the Democratic nomination he needs for Presidential candidacy, a win in the state for Morris would see this materialise and become a reality. However a win for Pullman would see him take the lead over Morris by a majority.

While the film is all about this heated campaign between Morris and Pullman, the focus really remains upon the guys you don’t normally see. Stephen Meyers (Gosling) is Morris’ press secretary and a true advocate of Morris and his campaign, though he suddenly finds himself being caught up in a web of political scandal that could see Morris lose Ohio and ultimately the nomination he needs for President.

The Ides of March is George Clooney’s fourth time in the directors chair. Though he also stars in the film as democrat Mike Morris, his role is much more supportive to players like Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. The choice to take more of a backseat in the film has really allowed for Clooney’s talent as a director to shine through though.

Gosling plays Stephen, a young advisor on Morris’ political campaign and an aide to Paul. With his young age Morris often looks to Steve for a truthful, raw perspective on his position as a politician. His positive outlook and truly supportive attitude toward Morris, who Steve really believes could change America for the better, works to Morris’ advantage as Steve’s efforts are completely genuine. Though his charm and charisma is soon lost to greed and desire after he becomes trapped in a few uncompromising situations thanks to Tom Duffy (Giamatti), the campaign manager for Morris’ opponent, and highly seductive intern Molly (Evan Rachel Wood).

Though Steve is the brains behind Morris’ campaign, Paul (Hoffman) is the campaign manager. Paul is a hotshot in the world of politics who has been behind many other successful campaigns. Though he also wants Morris to win, he often bends the truth to keep his boss happy and confident. After being in the business all his life though Paul is very aware of the levels of underhanded, dirty politics that corrupt the business and the way it can change people. For this reason he prides himself on loyalty, which he believes is the strongest component of a team and without, everything amounts to nothing.

While the phrase ‘The Ides of March’ is often related to Julius Ceasar being stabbed in the back by his own people, this film is much more than just double crossing your own team. It’s about morals, loyalty and quite simply, human nature. Whether if the opportunity presented itself, you’d do the right thing in a tough situation or turn a blind eye in order to personally gain from the situation. For this reason, the theme of the film could have been applied to any setting, not just a political one. But as you’ll see, it fits so well.

Though this political drama is captivating and tense, when the film finishes the plot is actually like most political campaigns, being that it’s rather simple and doesn’t amount to much. As with most films that are rife with political scandal, the storyline is fair and the twists are expected, so from that perspective it’s not too shocking or groundbreaking. Maybe this says more in the way of human nature and its sad predictability, than the lack of new and innovative turns in the genre.

However, with the stylistic direction and strong, compelling performances, The Ides of March really is a brilliant film that Clooney should be very proud of.

Star rating: 7.5/10

Directed by George Clooney.

Running time 98 minutes.

Magnolia (1999)

“This was not just a matter of chance. These strange things happen all the time.”

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jason Robards and Julianne Moore

Magnolia

Magnolia is a film that often splits an audience. Some people don’t like it as it is quite pretentious in places, yet along with these negative reviews it has received much critical acclaim too.

Magnolia carefully and intricately interweaves the lives of several different people on a normal day in the San Fernando Valley. Each character is looking for happiness, forgiveness or meaning in their life and it just so happens they coincidentally find peace with themselves after a day of random events.

One of the first things I noticed about the film was the incredible use of music which is employed superbly in every scene. While it has a great soundtrack, Aimee Mann was responsible for the score which brought out real emotion and passion in most of the scenes. It just shows how powerful music can truly be, and this film is a prime example of it being used to its fullest.

The cast is brimming with talented actors, and with so many different storylines to keep a track of, they each made their own significant and memorable. This is very important as with so many strands, the audience need to stay engaged with each for when it’s left and then later revisited. The film had me gripped throughout due to the attention and levels of detail within each story, this was another of the main positives I found about the film. The script is fantastic and each story is as powerful as the next, seducing the audience and making it very magnetising to watch.

We see star performances from Jeremy Blackman, Melinda Dillon, Tom Cruise, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Jason Robards, and Melora Walters, one of the best collaborative casts I have seen in film. While they each undoubtedly give fantastic performances, Cruise showed me a character that I haven’t seen from him before, nor was I expecting. He manages to dig deep and express his character, Frank T.J. Mackey, in a light that I haven’t seen him do and it was a pleasant surprise. Reilly and Walters were involved in another story that I loved watching, they had a real chemistry and this random love link was nice to see unfold. I think they both did great, though you can say that of any of the main characters.

Blackman played a boy-genius who faced pressure from his father to win every games show contest he was entered in, so he could capitalise off his son’s success, he gave a great performance and especially so for a child. Hall was the game contestant show host, dying of cancer, he gave a very helpless yet touching performance. Macy was a grown boy genius who had his 15 minutes of fame after beating the odds of the games show in the sixties, though now he is struggling with loneliness after being cast aside as a weirdo. Moore was great as a super-bitch and confused wife, her husband is dying of a terminal illness though she can’t handle the guilt she has for cheating on him for years beforehand. Robards played said husband and although he spent the whole film in a bed, he pulled off a strong performance. Hoffman was great as his male nurse too, and even though he cried a lot, he still made it work.

I did have problems with Magnolia though, and they are not easy to overlook. Firstly with all of the biblical references – it seemed that the director, Paul Thomas Anderson, was pushing for something more than what the film was, making it a bit pretentious and in over its head. Some scenes are absurd too, yet while all of this illogicality and randomness demonstrate the willingness that Anderson had for the film to actually mean something more, it gets so obvious in places it seems desperate. It also raises confusion with the end message. The coincidence-not-coincidence type of logic leaves the message of the film open for interpretation but with no hints or coherency – does the film even know what it’s trying to say?

Regardless of this, Magnolia is a moving film that hinges on the narratives and interpersonal connections that the characters have with each other, but that’s it. It fails in being anything more and the desperate need for it to be a film with a profound and life-changing message only opens it for more criticism. The characters were great, as was the score, the editing and the interweaving stories, but the push for it to be something more doesn’t place it in the category of a modern classic, but just a wannabe.

Star rating:  7.5/10

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

Running time 188 minutes.