From the folks that brought you bad lounge music, the rack focus and the social faux pas comes Love Liza, a tale of grief that is at once giddily off-the-wall and completely insufferable. Written by Gordy Hoffman as a vanity project for brother Philip Seymour, this somber 90-minute sketch comedy follows a widower in small-town America as he attempts to score gasoline for his next high, accidentally becomes a model airplane aficionado and screams really loudly. Wilson is a total mess after his wife Liza’s suicide (conveniently revealed when the local newspaper’s obit department gives him a call): he’s taken to sleeping on the floor, forgets to take the tag off his new shirt and laughs at really bad jokes. While Wilson is out huffing, his mother-in-law (Kathy Bates) keeps the cement ledge outside his front door warm and creeps out the local neighbor girl when she tells her Liza isn’t home. (Why make things easy for the little brat when you can make her wig out with a sitcom misunderstanding?) Love Liza will have a difficult time distinguishing itself from Alexander Payne’s About Schmidt, another widower-in-chaos comedy starring Bates in an undervalued role. Love Liza is nowhere near as condescending but its shrill pitch makes it just as difficult to take. No one on screen can compete with the haggard Philip Seymour, who spends 90 minutes freaking out for anyone willing to watch. The film never decides whether it wants to take poor Wilson’s grief seriously or as a source of laughter. What with the incessant lounge music playing in the film’s background, you may mistake Love Liza for an Adam Sandler Chanukah song.
Love Liza suffers from some major edge enhancement on this DVD edition, which preserves the film's original 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The print is overwhelmingly grainy (most noticeable during indoor and night sequences), but the presentation is still impressively film-like and compliments the film's already grim mystique. The Dolby Digital surround track is less shrill than you might imagine. When the film transitions from lengthy bouts of silence to Hoffman shouting nonstop, the shifts are delicately balanced. And much like the film itself, the cheesy Jim O'Rourke's music is intimately nauseating.
Todd Louiso, Gordy Hoffman and brother Philip Seymour provide commentary here that's far more interesting than the actual film. Louiso relates the usual production stories and Philip Seymour reveals a fondness for the film's intended absurdities, but it's Gordy who comes out on top. Despite the shrill nature of the final product, Gordy seems generally concerned with the suffering of his characters and isn't afraid to say which parts of the film don't work (mainly the atrocious scene where Bates goes schizoid on the neighbor girl). Rounding up the special features is a string of trailers and filmographies.
To prove that Love Liza is a work of deliberate sadism, Sony has curiously decided to include Hindi subtitles on this DVD edition of the film.