Today: February 28, 2024
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Jack Goes Boating

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut is a blistering gem of a bittersweet romance.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut is a
blistering gem of a bittersweet romance.
Adapted for the screen
by Robert Glaudini from his own play
of the same title, the story follows the love lives of four central
characters. The titular Jack
(Hoffman) is a sensitive soul trying to make the best of his average life, and
is inexperienced when it comes to relationships. One day he decides to take a chance and go on a blind date
at the recommendation of close friend Clyde (John Ortiz). Connie,
Jack’s date (the lovely Amy Ryan)
hints that she’d love to go boating one day, and so Jack learns to swim so that
he can make her wish come true.

Clyde and his wife Lucy
(Daphne Rubin-Vega) are almost
parent-like figures to Jack, as they advise and enable him to woo Connie, with
whom he hits it off from day one.
They seem a perfect match, each as timid and unpretentious as the other. At the other end of the spectrum Clyde
and Lucy’s marriage is showing some serious cracks, as past indiscretions gnaw
on their minds and ruin the good that they have. Jack witnesses these painful realities and has to decide
whether to take the enormous risks that go with starting a relationship. As always Hoffman plays the part with
incomparable intensity.

The plot unfolds with a
wealth of delicious dark humour, played to perfection by the accomplished
thespians. The writing is a real
treat, with some of the most interesting and believable dialogue this side of
(vintage) Tarantino. The characters and their relationships
are revealed layer by layer with such intricacy and finesse that reading the
screenplay could be compared to dismantling and admiring a fine Swiss cuckoo
clock.

Hoffman, Ortiz and Rubin-Vega
also starred in the stage play, so clearly it’s a story with characters close
to their hearts. The character’s
frailties and strengths are painted so vividly that even the absurdity that
marks some of their behaviour rings true.
At times the film feels a little too much like ‘the Philip Seymour
Hoffman show’, with the director letting the camera dwell for longer than
perhaps is necessary on his latest powerhouse performance. But on the other hand the man is an
undeniable genius in front of the camera even he if he isn’t quite one behind
it (yet), and so maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.

Hoffman’s fluid
direction coupled with an efficient edit make the film all the more absorbing,
and the soundtrack has all the charm and beauty of the very best low budget
indies (think Little Miss Sunshine
but with more variety). Simply
put, Jack Goes Boating is an affecting, unmissable delight.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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