Jack Goes Boating

 The trailer for Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut reminded me of Adam Sandler’s Punch Drunk Love (which also starred Hoffman). It turns out the script and socially awkward characters are very different. Jack Goes Boating is based on a play that Hoffman did for a while on stage, and unfortunately doesn’t translate onto film too well. Four characters all with their own unique issues play out a short sequence of their lives in cold New York City. Hoffman’s direction is careful and simple but he does understand when to make the audience laugh and when to make them feel uncomfortable.

 Clyde (Ortiz) and Lucy (Vega) are friends with Jack (Hoffman) who doesn’t meet people well and needs a good woman in his life. Lucy works with Connie (Ryan) and recommends the two come over for dinner. Jack and Connie enjoy each other’s company, as both are uncomfortably introverted and find it difficult to express what they want or to have a meaningful conversation. Connie mentions she would love to go boating in the summer, so Clyde devotes himself to teaching Jack how to swim in preparation for the new couple’s future adventures.

 Independent film often uses characters that malfunction in a way that translates into creative writing and fascinating material for a character actor to play. Jack is a more soft character than the bold and loud roles we see Oscar winner Hoffman in (i.e. Cold Mountain, Doubt, Capote), but as usual Hoffman delivers. Oscar nominee Ryan (Gone Baby Gone, Green Zone) takes on a completely different role than we have seen her perform, I thought she actually gave one of the film’s better performances. The problem with her character is we have to assume a little too much, as the screenplay only gives us bits and pieces into what has caused these characters to turn out the way they have.

 The film takes a downward turn near the end when all the booze, cocaine and drugs are introduced, when it should be more about the dynamic explosion of feelings that occurs with all four characters. My big problem with the project is that lack of an anchor, we lack a normal person to compare the main characters with, they all seem to be shoved into this unattractive, claustrophobic apartment and bleeding into dissatisfaction. I think it’s an admirable start for Hoffman behind the camera, but it’s not for now where his talent lies.

 Final Thought – Hoffman keeps this afloat, barely.

Grade C+

By: Dustin Chase W.

Editor: Jennifer Gih