Early Review: Jack Goes Boating
Jack Goes Boating opens in select theaters on September 17, but I had the privilege of catching a special advance screening this week with a fun and fascinating post-screening Q&A with director/star Philip Seymour Hoffman and co-star John Ortiz.
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut, Jack Goes Boating (perhaps better known as “The Movie Where PSH has Dreadlocks”), focuses on a timid limo drover (Hoffman). Guided by his friends Clyde (John Ortiz) and Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), Jack strikes up a relationship with an equally noncommittal woman named Connie (Amy Ryan). The two form a rare bond and uncharacteristically plan a dinner date for the near future, as well as a boating trip several months down the line. Unfortunately, Jack doesn’t know how to cook or swim. But he’s got time to learn.
The film was adapted from a play of the same name, which also starred all the principal cast members except Ryan. Hoffman does a good job of making if feel cinematic, allowing the weather and city of New York to inject some life into the material and really become its own character. When we see the snow continue to fall, we feel reassured that Jack will have enough time to learn to swim and make a good impression when the seasons change. Meanwhile, we see the relationship between Clyde and Lucy unravel as each of them attempt to give the dating novice Jack advice on how to handle life in a relationship.
These are real human issues that are easy to relate to. While they might seem insignificant in the wide scope of things, they mean the world to the characters involved. That’s really what the film is all about, all those little the things we do and the sacrifices we are willing to make for the people we love.
The majority of Jack Goes Boating is quiet, moving and full of “positive vibes.” Hoffman uses a lot of intimate close-ups, which he says he hopes will give us an inside look into the thoughts of these characters. It works. Then the film explodes in such a way that was off-putting to me and left me questioning the motives of some of the characters and feeling misled.
What was a dryly funny and rather soothing film to watch suddenly became very frustrating. Yet my qualms with the ending aren’t enough to completely ruin what was a solid debut from Hoffman, and I suspect you will feel the same if you enjoy this sort of character-driven indie.
Hoffman said he’d consider directing again if the right project came along, but would prefer to focus his energy solely on directing the next time around. I anxiously await his next directing job and am interested to see what kind of step he’ll make between projects. Until then we’ll just have to settle for watching him continue his reliable work as one of the world’s finest working actors. His performance here is certainly no exception.
RIYL: Pieces of April, Margot at the Wedding.