Sunday, 14 September 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2004: Philip Seymour Hoffman in Along Came Polly

Philip Seymour Hoffman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sandy Lyle in Along Came Polly.

Along Came Polly is a comedy about a guy Reuben (Ben Stiller) whose wife cheats on him on their honeymoon, but finds a new romantic potential in a very different woman Polly (Jennifer Aniston). I won't lie found most of Along Came Polly very disposable as a comedy as a whole, and sometimes slightly grating.

Philip Seymour Hoffman technically plays a very standard role that being the wacky best friend of our straight man lead. This is an absurdly common character in comedies of this sort and often they can be extremely obnoxious cases of an actor trying their hardest to be funny while falling flat on their faces. In those cases though the best friend role is usually played by some chronic over actor, but that is certainly not the case here where the role is played by the renown actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. It is not usually the case that a great actor is in this sort of part so one must merely see how Hoffman handles it. Well Hoffman first enters the film proudly as Sandy is performing as the best man at Reuben's wedding only to hilariously slip and fall. Prat falling may not be the best approach for a performance to come in on especially if the actor just let's the fall act as the joke, but boy I gotta hand it to Hoffman for some flawless execution. From the overjoy pride, to the intensity of the fall, and of course that face of disappointment beautifully done sir.

Hoffman simply does not stop with that entrance though as we are given a little information about his past as it turns out Sandy was once the star of a Breakfast Club type film where he played the bag pipes. Although he obviously has done nothing of note recently he still acts like he is an actor who should hold the status of perhaps an actor like Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman brilliant because he does not simply have Sandy stroking an ego about his so called acting prowess. Hoffman's better than that in that in this aspect of the performance he's really quite subtle about it. Sandy is of course has a huge ego about it but the way Hoffman plays it is not something that Sandy needs to boast about because it obviously should be so well known for anyone to see. It's both understated yet overstated by Hoffman in the most perfect of fashions. Although actually this even brings to one of the few semi serious scenes for Hoffman where he tells Reuben that his wife was acting the whole time. Again Hoffman is great as he fulfills the supportive role as he shows Sandy to be in utter command as he points out her lying.

But enough of that semi-serious stuff by Hoffman no matter how well handled it might have been I want some more hilarity. Well look no further than when we see Sandy practicing for a community theater version of Jesus Christ Superstar where Sandy tears it up on stage during "What's The Buzz" giving that Judas sneer as the chorus goes on awaiting Jesus's response which of course Sandy also decides to take for himself. Hoffman is a wonderful ham with his over accentuation of stage gesture possible showboating to its fullest and being absolutely hilarious while doing it. Of course Hoffman pivots flawlessly from the ham playing Jesus and Judas at apparently the same time to being the over indulgent ARTIST whose understanding of all just can't be comprehended by mere mortals. After seeing that relatively brief scene though I frankly would not have minded seeing the entirety of Jesus Christ Superstar entirely played by Hoffman as Sandy. Of course tearing it up on stage made be nothing compared to when Sandy is tearing it up on court.

That of course I mean the basketball court where plays with Reuben. Every shot basically Sandy misses as he always takes the shot no matter how many times he misses, or even though he is nowhere in position to make it into the basket. This of course may be technically speaking an incredibly repetitive joke, but I found it a consistently funny one because of Hoffman's delivery once again. Hoffman could not be better in the intensity he gives to every physical movement of Sandy on the court, and could not be more amusing in his non-stop barrage of various completely ridiculous words he says that in no way reflect his skills on the court. I find it extremely easy to see a non-Philip Seymour Hoffman type actor completely falling flat in this scene but Hoffman finds just the right tone for his absurdity to make really work. This even goes for jokes I don't think work otherwise, like the gross out jokes, such as when Sandy defecates in his pants. Although the way the film went about the set up was not very funny at all, the sad expression that dawns on Hoffman's face is pure gold.

Hoffman's two best scenes though come at the very end. The first being when Sandy is finally told the truth about his fame and skills by Reuben's father. Hoffman's reaction is terrific as he expresses the realization of this fool so wonderfully, and manages to will out this dramatic change in what is otherwise a pretty absurdest caricature. This though leaves Hoffman with one more scene where Sandy must deliver Reuben's insurance pitch for him. Hoffman is best described as awesome in this scene as strikes up the perfect balance of the ridiculous of Sandy with a needed conviction to make the pitch believable. Well Hoffman does both of these things at the same time and suggests some of his more serious performances, through drive he gives to the word, despite still being consistently funny in the scenes as well. You could not ask for a better end to this gem of a performance. I have to say though the film does foolishly fail to be as good as Hoffman is around him, and even more foolishly has him absent for about 20 minutes in a row. None of that matters because Hoffman is great in every scene he is in, and although I doubt I'll be watching the film as a whole again I won't watching his scenes over and over again.
(yeah that just happened)


Michael McCarthy said...

I.....I.....I ain't even mad.

Psifonian said...


Psifonian said...

Not only that, yeah, I just rewatched his performance and he nabbed the crown from Dafoe. Sorry, Willem, but LET IT RAIN!

luke higham said...

Well, I'm glad to have been proven wrong, I rewatched the movie, Thought Hoffman was great, although I thought the rest was just okay.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I rewatched a lot of his scenes on Youtube, sidestepping the turd of a movie itself. I admit he was funnier than I remembered.

BUT THAT DOESN'T MEAN I WON'T GET MY REVENGE. My next win here, I'm requesting a performance you'll hate so much, you'll lose faith in actin all together.

Louis Morgan said...

I look forward to this impending doom.