Anchor Bay // 2010 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // January 20th, 2011
Jack: Don't worry, I'm a good swimmer.
Connie: I knew you'd be good.
Jack: I am for you.
Taking on the responsibilities of actor and director, Jack Goes Boating is Philip Seymour Hoffman's (Capote) first foray into both directing and double-duty filmmaking. For his directorial debut, Hoffman selects material with which he is intimately familiar, having played the lead role of Jack in the original Off-Broadway production of Bob Glaudini's play. Hoffman fashions a film of mixed results, punctuated by excellent performances, a confusing story, and a touch (or two) of melodrama.
Jack (Hoffman) is a reggae loving limo driver living in Manhattan. He's single and lives in his uncle's basement, but things are about to change for the socially awkward Jack. His friend Clyde (John Ortiz, American Gangster) and Clyde's wife Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega) decide to set-up Jack with Lucy's co-worker Connie (Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone). Connie has issues of her own, but the unlikely couple appear to hit it off. However, as Connie and Jack grow closer, Clyde and Lucy's relationship is thrown off course by the re-emergence of past indiscretions.
At the heart of Jack Goes Boating are four unhappy people (two couples) heading in opposite directions. There's Jack and Connie, who are just starting a relationship. And then there's Clyde and Lucy, who are the beginning of the end, or perhaps, just the end. The story (or what passes for one) follows the two couples in their respective journeys. It's a story that doesn't look that compelling on paper and is even less so in execution.
The story is problematic because days, weeks, and months pass between scenes. This creates confusion at certain times and may, in fact, be a product of Hoffman's inexperience in directing and editing. For example, at one point, it is hard to tell if Jack is visualizing making dinner, practicing, or actually preparing a meal. The point is eventually clarified, but not before some doubt creeps into one's mind.
Another weakness is that Jack and Connie's relationship isn't shown to develop or evolve. Scenes skip along and we are to accept that they are spending more time together, but it's not clear what their attraction is based on, how they spend their time, or whether they are even happy. Meanwhile, the disintegration of Lucy and Clyde's relationship is just as enigmatic. There have been past misdeeds by both of them to be sure, but again, the motivation is not revealed or explained in any meaningful way. Further, the resurfacing of their marital problems is connected in a rather unconvincing way to Jack's courtship of Connie.
The only reason to watch these proceedings are the performances. Hoffman, Ortiz, and Rubin-Vega each reprise the role they played in the theatre for the film. Their chemistry is obvious, their interactions flow naturally, each fully inhabits their character, and they never strike a false note. Ortiz is especially strong as the energetic Clyde. Ryan, who didn't portray Connie for the stage, more than holds her own against the other three. The most impressive feat of the quartet is that they manage to perform the story's climactic, drug-fuelled dinner scene without looking completely ridiculous. The sequence is completely absurd, but the four actors maintain their dignity.
The audio and visual presentations are strong. The video transfer is clean and detailed. There are no problems with colors. The audio is without any obvious flaws, which is not surprising since this a dialogue dominated film with a light soundtrack and little in the way of sound effects.
There is a slim set of extras. It includes two deleted scenes, a short featurette about filming in New York called "Jack's New York," another short piece about adapting the play or the screen ("From the Stage to the Screen"), and the trailer.
The acting is admirable, but Jack Goes Boating is a relatively minor film based on a relatively minor play with a story that doesn't hang together in a convincing way. It is difficult recommend to anyone beyond those who are fans of the play, Hoffman, and/or stories about eccentrics.
Review content copyright © 2011 Roy Hrab; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site