Tag Archives: Jake Hoffman

All In the Family

Sam & Kate

by Hope Madden

Film right now is littered with “geezer teasers” – lowish budget action flicks with inflated cameos from aging actors who were once the world’s biggest box office draws. Bruce Willis and John Travolta have one right now. Mel Gibson has one every other week.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to see a film that casts veteran actors in challenging roles that respect the actor, their age, and the audience? Yes, it would. The proof is called Kate & Sam.

Dustin Hoffman and Sissy Spacek co-star in the indie dramedy about resilience, grief and family. Hoffman’s Bill, a boisterous widowed veteran, lives modestly with his good-natured son, Sam (Jake Hoffman, coincidentally Dustin Hoffman’s actual son).

Father and son fall, almost simultaneously, for Spacek’s Tina and her daughter, Kate (Schuyler Fisk, coincidentally Spacek’s daughter – not that you could miss it with that pointed little nose).

As much as the family ties may seem like a gimmick, the truth is that they bring unmistakable depth and rapport to the pairings. Writer/director Darren Le Gallo mines this repeatedly in large and small ways to create a believable, rich environment for pathos and love. Even small details breathe with authenticity touched lightly by nostalgia. You can imagine Bill’s recliner and afghan perhaps belonging to Le Gallo’s own father, while the stash of family photos clearly, sweetly come from the Hoffmans.

Le Gallo never condescends, mercifully. His small town is possibly hipper than most, but the way the film expresses a healthy respect for vintage materials is impressive.

Spacek is the adorable, natural presence she’s always been in a film that looks without mockery but with humor at the toll life takes on us all. She and Hoffman are, as expected, excellent. But they never outshine their kids.

Fisk’s elegant, frustrated Kate is a solid anchor for the film’s drama, but Jake Hoffman is its heartbeat. With him in the lead, Le Gallo is able to make a lot of subtle points about fathers and sons, masculinity and acceptance. Most of all, the film balances loss and resilience beautifully.

Le Gallo’s first feature delivers grace and goodwill in ways that are genuinely uncommon. It doesn’t tell a big story, but the story it tells resonates. Yes, he lucked into a dream cast, but they may have been luckier still to have him.

Just Breathe


by Hope Madden

A bruised, muscular romanticism – a nostalgia for a hipper, more rebellious and gorgeous reality – informs Jake Hoffman’s Asthma.

The beautifully damaged Gus (Benedict Samuel) can’t claim a place in the generic uniformity of the modern world. He longs for the grittier and richer reality he believes came and went before his time. So he steals a Rolls, picks up the girl he admires, and attempts the kind of tragically restless road trip you might find in a Godard film.

All of which would feel precious were it not for erratic but solid performances, and a revelation that unveils Gus as the poseur we knew he was. Surprisingly, Hoffman and Samuel are able to mine that late-film revelation to connect the lead with the ordinary Joe in the audience, and still make his troubles resonate because of the genuine pain in the performance.

For all the film’s showy quirks – Nick Nolte, for instance, is the voice of Gus’s Guardian Angel/Wolfman – Hoffman’s abrupt manner with both camera and soundtrack keep things from feeling frivolous or pretentious.

The slew of peculiar folk Gus meets along his journey nearly chokes any hint of authenticity from Asthma, although the great (and appropriate) Iggy Pop is like a needed and timely punch in the gut to a film just about to topple over with its own quirkiness.

For a hyper-masculine road-type-picture, Asthma boasts a surprisingly nuanced female lead. Yes, Krysten Ritter’s Ruby looks like the typical off-beat beauty, and her character is certainly the right combination of naughty and nice to fit the bill, but Ritter never lets the character off too easy. She makes poor decisions, kicks herself for them, hardens, and moves on – all with a grace that feels of this time and of another.

There’s an addiction theme that threatens to hold the film together, give it purpose and drive, but often feels like the least authentic piece of the movie. Without it, though, Asthma too often comes off as a nostalgic riff on another era’s nostalgic riffs.

Hoffman’s a confident first time filmmaker with a product that is great to look if purposeless – kind of like Gus.