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I liked Philip Seymour Hoffman’s movie contributions as much as (okay well, maybe slightly less than) the next guy, but can we not take things too far just because the guy has passed? I give you Philip Seymour Hoffman: ‘He ennobled the 99%’ in which Xan Brooks asserts that Hoffman, the ‘greatest character actor of our time’, represented ‘the 99%’ in his roles – ‘because of the way he looked’ (or something).
Leaving aside that I’ve never understood what exactly a ‘character actor’ is supposed to be (aren’t all actors ‘character actors’?), regarding this Hoffman-ennobling-‘the 99%’ concept, which role(s) would those be, one wonders?
Would it be the first role most of us saw him in, as the rich, spoiled, cowardly prep-school kid in Scent of a Woman? Would it be the more recent L. Ron Hubbard stand-in in The Master? His turn as celebrated author Truman Capote in The Official Oscar-Bait Biopic Of 2005 (I think that’s what it was called)? How about the obsequious personal-assistant to the big scheming multimillionaire Lebowski? The ‘Mattress King’ parody-supervillain who opposed Adam Sandler’s quasi-Superman in Punch Drunk Love? The megalomaniacal supervillain in one of those Mission: Impossible movies (forget which one)? The megalomaniacal movie director in Synechdude Or However You Spell It New York? Obstinate, grumpy, self-serving (millionaire) major league baseball manager Art Howe in Moneyball? The scheming would-be real estate mogul (and drug addict…) in over his head that he played in Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead? Superfamous rock critic Lester Bangs in Almost Famous? The creepy porn hanger-on with a not-so-ambiguous crush on Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights?
Those are the roles I recall off the top of my head. Precisely none of them scream out ‘the 99%’ or ‘everyman’.
The one that comes the closest to this description I guess is the bank guy who embezzles money for gambling in Owning Mahowny. Sort of. Though still not really.
As far as I can tell, this idea that Philip Seymour Hoffman in his roles represented ‘the 99%’ and was an ‘everyman’ (and a ‘character actor’, for that matter) is entirely due to the fact that he was kinda fat and ugly. He was a fat and ugly guy who often played rich & powerful people, and that fact – that fact alone – strikes movie critics as incongruous. Because everyone knows that rich & powerful people are all beautiful! It’s ‘the 99%’ who are fat and ugly!
After all, you don’t see Brad Pitt called a ‘character actor’, and no one’s ever going to say he represented ‘the 99%’ even though he has played plenty of roles that not only hail from that (apparently now most important and meaningful) subset of humanity but were, one would think, pretty ‘charactery’ in their own right (Kalifornia, Thelma & Louise, Snatch, Legends of the Fall, Tree of Life anyone?). And why not? Because he’s so frickin’ good-looking.
But Philip Seymour Hoffman, who – to anyone who actually paid attention to his movies – mostly built a career on playing amoral rich/powerful climbers and/or creeps, ‘ennobled the 99%’. Because, y’now, being fat, ugly, and amorally trying to climb into power/wealth – that’s all just sooooo ‘99%’, isn’t it?
Hilarious. Talk about a backhanded compliment to ‘the 99%’! “In his roles, that guy was fat and ugly-looking and yet still thought he belonged in the upper social strata – which reminded me of you guys” scream out a thousand critics.
Can we let the guy RIP now.
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