Try this out as an exercise in futility: Name Philip Seymour Hoffman’s greatest film role.
A close friend and I tried in the hours following the tragic news that we’d no longer get future Hoffman performances to consider. Twitter flooded with admiration for Hoffman’s work in the prestigious (Capote, Doubt, The Master), the accessible (The Hunger Games, Mission: Impossible III) and the iconic (The Big Lebowski, Almost Famous). Scan his resume. Your jaw literally drops at the sheer number of outstanding roles Hoffman delivered in his scant 46 years on this planet. He was one of our greatest living actors.
We here at CinemaBlend are devastated that this incredible talent was cut short, with so much left to give. But we’re choosing to counter our sadness with a celebration, of sorts. We combed through his filmography and selected our five favorite PSH roles. In doing so, we easily left 25 amazing performances in the lurch. Such is the incredible output of Hoffman’s. But these are the performances we’ll always hold dear, with an attempt to explain to you why.
Which roles would you choose?
MagnoliaAs hospice care nurse Phil Parma in Magnolia, Philip Seymour Hoffman approached the role with exactly the kind of patience, determination, kindness and incredible compassion one might expect from a person tasked with caring for a terminally ill patient. In a film that ties a lot of characters together, Hoffman's character never really gets his own story, but we learn plenty about the kind of man Phil is through his actions, and Hoffman's talent certainly isn't wasted in the role.
Parma's involvement among the ensemble in Paul Thomas Anderson's film serves as a crucial connector between Jason Robard's Earl Partridge and his estranged son, Frank Mackey (Tom Cruise). As a caretaker for Earl, Parma goes above and beyond to try to track down Earl's son, whether it means taking on an extra shift, patiently relaying Earl's situation to people who might be able to help him find Frank, calmly responding to the emotional reactions of Earl's wife (Julianne Moore) and at one point, awkwardly ordering pornographic magazines through a grocery delivery service in the hopes of finding one of Frank's self-help seminar ads. Parma patiently does what needs to be done to make this reunion happen before Earl dies, and in the process of portraying this man, Hoffman demonstrates his ability to play a genuinely kind and selfless human being, who proves to be a stark contrast to some of the other roles Hoffman has played, including the sleazy Dean Trumbell in Punch-Drunk Love, the music-loving know-it-all Lester Bangs in Almost Famous or the contemptuous Freddie Miles in The Talented Mr. Ripley, to name a few examples.
Hoffman was an actor with range. He could be funny, awkward, dramatic, dark and anything else a role called for. His body of work is a demonstration of his talent and his performance in Magnolia is no exception there.