San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle wonders whether Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was found dead yesterday, was exquisitely skilled at portraying awkward, sad, tormented characters because the actor himself had low self-esteem:
“He most often played people who were either alienated or had recreated themselves out of profound sense of alienation. Indeed, if you’re looking for a common thread in the work of this versatile and multifaceted actor, that might be it. From the shy teacher in ’25th Hour’ to the self-styled religious leader in ‘The Master’ to the second violinist in ‘The Last Quartet,’ he played lonely men who had made some uneasy accommodation with the surrounding world.
“He understood flaws. He most certainly understood darkness, particularly the kind of darkness that could restructure itself as creativity. Think of him as the political fixer in ‘The Ides of March’ or as the volatile government agent in ‘Charlie Wilson’s War.’ One must assume this darkness was also within Hoffman himself and this disturbance was part of his gift. For sure, he often exuded a lack of ease in his own skin, a submerged self-hatred. Was this real? One sensed it was, though perhaps it was just the movies.”