Philip Seymour Hoffman would seem to be about the only actor alive who could get Jack Goes Boating made, and that’s in large part because he’s one of the few actors who would have the burning desire to do so.
The Oscar winner’s directorial debut, adapted by Bob Glaudini from his play, tells the simple tale of Jack (Hoffman), a shy, fortyish limo driver with a fondness for pot and reggae music -- he likes it because it sounds happy -- who meets Connie (Amy Ryan) for a blind date set up by Connie’s co-worker Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), who is married to Jack’s best friend and fellow limo driver, Clyde (John Ortiz). As the young couple tentatively come together, breaking through layers and layers of awkwardness and low self-esteem, Clyde and Lucy’s marriage begins to dissolve because of Clyde’s inability to get over an incident from their past. All the while, Clyde gives Jack swimming lessons so that he can take Connie on her dream date -- a boating trip on the lake.
As a film, Jack Goes Boating is so small you sometimes get the feeling you’re watching exceedingly talented actors rehearse a favorite play. Though Hoffman does try a handful of visual stylistic flourishes -- including a winning sequence where Jack learns to open his eyes underwater -- the pleasure of the movie is in the subtleties of the performances. There’s the gleam in Clyde’s eye when he’s tweaking on cocaine and jealousy, the quiet wave of revulsion that shudders through Connie when her boss gropes her, and Lucy’s tired acceptance that her husband doesn’t turn her on anymore.
At the center of it all is Hoffman, who, while not a physical chameleon (Capote aside, he’s too large a physical presence to ever disappear into a role), is an expert emotional chameleon. He draws us in with Jack’s stillness so that, in his one moment of explosive frustration, his rage is both terrifying and heartbreaking -- Jack’s so full of bottled-up emotions that you understand why he seems to shut himself off from so much of the world.
It might not be the most cinematic first film -- it’s basically a mumblecore movie made by some of the most gifted actors around -- but Jack Goes Boating will satisfy those who long for movies that have the intimacy of theater.
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- Released: 2010
- Rating: R
- Review: Philip Seymour Hoffman would seem to be about the only actor alive who could get Jack Goes Boating made, and that’s in large part because he’s one of the few actors who would have the burning desire to do so. The Oscar winner’s directorial debut, adapt… (more)