On Bob Hoskins’ Greatest Role

Bob Hoskins’ death on April 29th signaled the loss of a great actor–maybe even Peter O’Toole level great. Hoskins, who died from–of all things–pneumonia, has offered us a plethora of incredible film roles, including Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Smee in Hook and, most importantly, his cameo in Spice World. However, regardless of his many portrayals, there is only one that truly stands out among all the rest: Lou Landsky in Mermaids.

Lou the Lothario
Lou the Lothario

Not just an underrated Cher/Winona Ryder/Christina Ricci movie, Mermaids was one of the first precursors to showing us a softer side of the male archetype. Rachel Flax (Cher) is known for moving from town to town at random whenever a relationship goes wrong. This time, Rachel and her two kids, Charlotte (Ryder) and Kate (Ricci), are headed off to a quaint town in Massachusetts to escape Rachel’s latest trainwreck of a relationship.

In unavoidable love
In unavoidable love

Determined to never let anyone get too close to her (or her kids), Rachel is surprised by her attraction to local shoe salesman Lou (Hoskins), a happy go lucky type whose main passion in life is baseball and painting. At first, Rachel assumes Lou will be just another proverbial notch on her bedpost, but can’t help feel something a bit more for the loveable loon who’s willing to put up with her psychological bullshit.

As a mermaid and a pirate for a New Year's Eve costume party
As a mermaid and a pirate for a New Year’s Eve costume party

Hoskins’ rendering of Lou makes it believable that someone like Rachel could fall for him–and actually be scared by the prospect of being the one more interested in him. So startled and disturbed by her emotions for Lou, Rachel does the predicable thing and acts out by kissing the caretaker at the convent nearby their house, Joe (Michael “Jake Ryan” Schoeffling). This action ends up hurting Charlotte, who has a crush on Joe, more than Lou, who never even finds out about it.

In the end, Lou wins out in terms of claiming Rachel’s heart. And, in doing so, Hoskins paved the way for other underdog love interests–like Seth Rogen and Michael Cera. So, while Hoskins may have had numerous award-winning performances–like those in Nixon and Mrs. Henderson Presents, it is is ultimately Mermaids that reveals everything that was amazing about this one-of-a-kind actor.