Sunday, February 2, 2014

THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS: Philip Seymour Hoffman Dead at 46- A Talent Wasted

The first time I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman on screen was in Paul Thomas Anderson's amazing Boogie Nights. His endearing and heartbreaking portrayal of Scotty J, the insecure boom mic operator who had a mad deep crush on Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) was brilliant.  In countless roles that followed, Hoffman was able to transform himself into characters in such an adept and moving way that none of them intersected. Often times when watching even the best actor, you can find yourself recognizing mannerisms and facial expressions borrowed from other performances but not with Hoffman. A truly gifted actor, he has moved me to tears, seriously creeped me out, scared the hell out of me and make me die with laughter. He may of been in some flawed movies but I never saw a flawed performance. My favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman performances are Scotty J in Boogie Nights, Brandt in The Big Lebowski, Mitch in Patch Adams, Phil Parma in Magnolia, Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, Dean Trumbell in Punch-Drunk Love, Sandy Lyle in Along Came Poly, Truman Capote in Capote, Father Brenden Flynn in Doubt, and Lancaster Dodd in The Master.

This morning as I worked in my office listening to Grandhorse much too loudy I could barely hear my son knocking on the door. Hitting mute, I called him to come in and he told me that Phillip Seymour Hoffman was dead. The series of rebuttals poured out of me, "Get outa here"- "No way" - "I don't believe it!" And... I did not. My son told me he didn't believe it either when his girlfriend called to tell him but that he had verified it online. He loved Hoffman as an actor as I do, as most everyone does. When my son told me how he was found and how he died I shook my head not only in disbelief but in anger. While I truly admired his skill as an actor I did not follow his personal life. I generally do not with any entertainers. As I poked around on line and learned about his struggles with drugs it saddened and frustrated me. I guess it is common to think that people who are so good at what they do, who have their chops down in a creative realm also have a command over their personal lives. I know this is naive thinking but for some reason, Hoffman struck me that way.

I know a fair amount of people in the arts and creative people in other fields and while this is a broad generalization, I get the sense that often times they are people who feel things too strongly. I am talking about the "condition of life", worlds tragedies, things like this but while they feel the hurt strongly they sometimes tend to be self centered as well. Maybe a better way to put it is that they exist in their own head too much. They feel pain but outwardly do not take the time to help others, especially grand pursuits like volunteering for charities, things like that. It is a dichotomy of thinking and feeling. I know I am personally like this. I like to think that I am somewhat creative. I have been an "entertainer" before. I share in the same failings. Big on feeling but less on action to make things better. I also throughout my life have had a tendency to self-destruct. Luckily this tendency has not included forays into drugs, illegal or otherwise. I would not handle them well, I can assure you.

I don't know what drove Philip Seymour Hoffman's inner demons but it is so maddening to think that he was in a committed relationship and THAT he has kids and that those important people in his life were not enough to emotionally bitch slap him into reality. To get enough out of his own head. To feel that the needs of his loved ones loomed so large that they over rode any self loathing he had. Is it fair for me to even comment on someone I do not know? On situations I have not been privy to? Probably not. Maybe, more than anything it is post shock, post sadness talking and an utter passionate hate of drugs and people who give up their lives to them. There are people in my life whose loved ones have fallen, have left the mortal coil at the hands of substance abuse. I have seen the absolute pain in the eyes of those left to deal with the horrors of drugs and the pain of making the wrong choices. I guess those left behind are always left wondering why.

Philip Seymour Hoffman has left this world way too soon and has left as a talent wasted. I am not speaking about the countless brilliant performances we will never be witness to but rather his talent as a loving aging partner, gracious father and possible grandfather getting up in years, and long time graying friend to many. While friends and fellow actors will surely eulogize and remember Hoffman fondly I hope there will be some measure of reflection on how and why he died too.

Rest in Peace Mr. Phillip Seymour Hoffman
and my Condolences to those left behind.

Robb Donker

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