(an actor whose personal life audiences know, if anything, far too much about), The Party’s Over is interesting today less for the nonexistent insight it provides into the American political process than for the insight it provides into Hoffman, who emerges as a sweet, passionate, and curious man, and, alas, just about the last person qualified to host a political documentary. Twister (1996) Hoffman’s supporting turn as a storm-chasing weather freak in the enormously popular early-CGI extravaganza Twister hints at an alternative future for the actor in which he wouldn’t be known as a heavyweight thespian revered by the greatest talents of the day, but rather a red-headed goofball screwing around affably on the margins of major motion pictures. This includes Al Pacino’s obnoxious performance as a nightmarish sentient shout of a man dead set on getting the actor playing him an undeserved Academy Award.
Thankfully, that was not to be, and Twister, like Along Came Polly, stands as an outlier in this very serious man’s very serious (but often hilarious) career. Though Pacino and O’Donnell are supposed to be the heroes (or anti-heroes at least) of the film, they’re so insufferable that they inspire sympathy for Hoffman’s guileful if overmatched antagonist by default. The Getaway (1994) As a young film actor, Hoffman paid his dues with plenty of lowlife roles that exploited the actor’s sweaty intensity and bruising physicality but otherwise proved equally untaxing and unrewarding.
The great thing about Hoffman’s career is that Patch Adams is a glaring anomaly in a life otherwise fiercely devoted to pursuing truthful roles and pushing himself to the brink of his extraordinary abilities.
The tragic thing about Robin Williams’s intermittently brilliant but far more checkered career is that Patch Adams was the rule rather than the exception. Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole (1991) Hoffman made his film debut in 1991’s Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole, a black-and-white crime opus with unfortunate aspirations to be Citizen Kane on a budget that, unfortunately, lives up to the groaning pretension of its title.
Fans came to feel like they knew him through his art, but for a man who made such a profound impression on the world of film, precious little was known about him as a person.Chances are good he’d find the film’s cartoonish deification of ‘60s rock rebellion self-aggrandizing, bland, and mediocre, even if Hoffman’s performance as “the Count,” an American DJ flying the flag for good, old rock and roll on a British pirate radio station, gives this sentimental nonsense what little genuine passion it possesses. God’s Pocket (2014) There is a certain kind of grim, intentionally modest art film that needs the peculiar oxygen and generosity of spirit found at film festivals (particularly Sundance) in order to live, and dies an unmourned death in the real world.One such film is God’s Pocket, the directorial debut from Mad Men silver fox John Slattery, which Hoffman produced as well as co-starred in as a small-time neighborhood criminal terrified of losing what little he has.The sole collaboration between Robin Williams and Hoffman was an enormous commercial hit that has been appropriately pilloried as the unwatchable nadir of Williams’s tendency toward shameless schmaltz.Not even Hoffman’s ornery performance as an early roommate of the good doctor, seemingly the only person not utterly charmed by the protagonist’s zany cult of personality, can redeem this, especially since his character disappears for a long stint, then returns as just another captivated fan of the titular wisecracking yet tender-hearted medical professional.