Louiso (High Fidelity) turns director for this award-winning
but belaboured examination of grief. Wilson (Hoffman, whose
brother wrote the script) is understandably shattered when
his wife commits suicide, so much so that he sleeps on his
living room floor, refuses to read the suicide note and lets
his work for a web design firm slip badly. He finds it impossible
to communicate with anyone, least of all his mother-in-law
(Bates), who is herself struggling badly, also understandably!
A concerned colleague (Koskoff) suggests that Wilson spend
time with her model-racer brother (Kehler) as a kind of therapy,
and Wilson's initial keenness suggests this may be helping.
He gets a prestigious new job for a wealthy client (Toblowsky)
... but his increasing addiction to petrol fumes threatens
The film opens in the shattered silence of grief and pretty
much stays there for 90 minutes. This quiet awkwardness is
startlingly real, and painful to watch, especially with such
a fine actor as Hoffman on screen, fully inhabiting the role.
As Wilson gets deeper and deeper into his nightmare, becoming
increasingly helpless to sort himself out, the film does find
a real resonance. And yet, it continually refuses to go anywhere!
Sure there are moments of sharp humour and anger, confusion
and insight. But as Wilson becomes more like a spoiled child
unwilling (rather than just unable) to cope, the film starts
to grate. His mental imbalance becomes more than a little
scary, and yet it never tips over the edge. There are also
a few underexplained gaps in the story, especially in the
interplay between Hoffman and Bates (who's also superb). Louiso's
direction is clever and revealing, and Gordy Hoffman's script
captures some difficult truths. But in their raw examination
of grief and pain the filmmakers forgot that this is a movie--it
needs to tell us something we don't already know. It needs
to go somewhere, to stop wallowing and get on with the story.