Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Actors: Hoffman x 2, Finney, De Niro

A double bill featuring that fascinating actor Philip Seymour Hoffman - I have not liked all of his films, but sometimes he blew one away, ever since his early roles in BOOGIE NIGHTS, MAGNOLIA and THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY.  Here teamed with Albert Finney and Robert De Niro as equally magnetic co-stars, he delivers the goods ...

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD. Sidney Lumet’s last film in 2007 (see below & Lumet label for other reviews) is also – yes, fascinating – to catch now, since its star Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death recently. This is a family drama that veers into Greek tragedy territory. Lumet at 83 lays on a powerhouse cast as we watch brothers Andy (Hoffman) – desperately needing money to finance his drug habit and cover money he has embezzled, and weak younger brother Hank (Ethan Hawke), who needs money for his family and who gets lured into big brother’s plan to rob a jewelry shore – not just any old jewel shop, but the one belonging to their parents, Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris. 
This is meant to be a victimless crime with the insurance paying out. But younger brother gets someone else involved in the robbery and the mother, who was not meant to be at the shop, fights back, resulting in two deaths: hers, and the robber. Both brothers go into meltdown, and the father – Finney at his most intense, in a good late role for him, decides to investigate further. This leads to a stunning climax between Hoffman and Finney ... Marisa Tomei has a good role too. Now for another I had been putting off: Hoffman with De Niro in FEARLESS, which I did not want to see at all at the time.
FLAWLESS from 1999 is a real oddity, sometimes one wants to turn it off or speed it up, as we watch homophobic ex-cop Robert De Niro, who suffers a stroke during a run in with some drug dealers, and tries to recover. His doctor tells him the best way to improve his speech is to start singing lessons. He plucks up courage to ask his neigbour to teach him to sing - this is Hoffman as the flamboyant transvestite and drag queen, who has problems of his own, as he finally admits he is lonely and ugly and unloved. This film is about how the relationship grows between these two very different people and how they both work together to overcome their very different problems, while some vicious hoods are also looking for that money. 
It is good to see De Niro back to his best after some very average movies, a lot of which one didn't want to or need to see (he is almost an older Travis Bickle here, down on his luck in a very seedy sleazy gritty New York) and Phillip Seymour Hoffman is just outstanding and mesmerising again, he was certainly an actor who took risks - and will be as sorely missed as Heath Ledger. Its a Joel Schumacher film, a lot of it though looks too dark, one can barely see what is going on. 

Soon: Finney in Huston's 1984 UNDER THE VOLCANO, and with Tom Courtenay in THE DRESSER, plus Tom in Noel Coward's ME AND THE GIRLS.

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