As Professor M taught me, a man doesn't have to be drop-dead gorgeous in order to win my love. From the first day sitting in his class, I felt my heart being swept away on the wings of his words forever. Something about his halted swagger, smooth velvety voice, and impeccable fashion sense just work together to create this frenetic sexual energy that radiates through the room as soon as he walks in... In Hollywood there are very few who have this same presence onscreen. One such man is the lovely Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Okay, so I've only seen twelve of his 47 IMDb acting credits, but I just wanted to say a few sweet words. The first time I was aware of PSH's virility and verve was in his role as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous. "The only true currency in this world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool." Teenage Kat in high school with her headphones on and her awkwardness and her dirty sneakers pretty much went nuts for that line. I later realized he wasn't a one-hit wonder when I saw him ironically-sans-pornstache in Boogie Nights. Paul Thomas Anderson brought us the ultimate trifecta of sexy-ugly with PSH, John C. Reilly, and Mark Wahlberg, and while the last two were running around shirtless and doing chicks, PSH's Scotty was making me sweat. Maybe it's the short shorts and the ill-fitting tank tops stretched over his expanse of stomach, maybe it's his awkwardly colored and poorly styled hair, but he brings so much anguish to his unrequited love for Dirk Diggler that whenever his character takes center stage, the dramatic irony reaches uncomfortable levels and I can't help but squirm in my seat watching everything go wrong.
What I loved about seeing many of Boogie Nights' actors return to working together in Magnolia was that they were still playing characters as insecure as their previous roles, but with completely different strengths and dynamics. As hospice nurse Phil Parma, he conveys a sensitivity and tranquility that Scotty would have been incredibly jealous of. At first I assumed the character was gay, but upon repeated viewings I realize this is not necessarily true. Though Parma lacks the raw sexiness of PSH, he is a completely believable young man who has simply settled into his place in life, but still manages to be surprised by what can make him feel. (Wow, just thinking of these PTA films is making me write an ode to John C. Reilly in my head. Maybe later...)
I wasn't sure what to expect out of Capote, movie-wise, but I am still impressed by PSH's range two years later. Apologetic yes-man Brandt in The Big Lebowski, greasy deviant priest Veasey (what a great name) in Cold Mountain, and now unlikable leading man. You know you've made it as a star when... Sure, at first the Truman voice was disconcerting, but the pacing and atmosphere of the picture allowed me to look past it after a while. As far as how the film made me feel about the true events and real people that inspired it, I won't attribute that to Mr. Hoffman. But the fact that he could bring gravitas to a character that most viewers are familiar with, all the while taking that squeaky voice completely seriously, just makes my heart swell.
Oh, what a man!