Follow Us on Twitter

Jack Goes Boating - Review

Jack Goes Boating

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

PHILIP Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut is a quietly assured affair that arguably benefits from playing it safe.

Based upon a play that Hoffman’s LAByrinth theatre company has already staged in New York, it’s the slightly quirky tale of four struggling 30-somethings and their experiences with love.

For Jack (Hoffman), it’s about finding some self-confidence to win over his new friend Connie (Amy Ryan)… something he does with the help of best friend Clyde (John Ortiz), who is seemingly happily married to Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega).
But just as things start to look promising for Jack’s fortunes, Clyde’s world begins to fall apart.

Hoffman, as director, allows the ensuing tale to unfold in an unfussy manner, employing a leisurely (at best) pace and giving each of his cast members plenty to do.

And while he sometimes struggles to escape the stagey feel of certain scenes, he also ensures that the emotions are never short-changed; rather, they often feel painfully real… meaning that you should be rooting for just about everybody at one time or another.

As the Jack of the title, Hoffman is well within his comfort zone (think Love Liza or Synecdoche, New York) but ensures that the central character is a likeable, if sometimes painfully insular soul. He’s also arguably the least interesting character.

Ortiz, on the other hand, is a fascinating contradiction – an outwardly charismatic, selfless best friend who is inwardly struggling to keep control of his emotions and feelings of helpless despair within the context of a failing marriage. It’s a terrific role that Ortiz makes heartbreakingly authentic.

Ryan, meanwhile, is simply luminous as the object of Jack’s affections and you may well find yourself holding your breath in anticipation of her happiness such is the vulnerability and breezy innocence she brings to the role. And Rubin-Vega is also both moving and funny as Clyde’s wife, Lucy.

Hence, while slow in places and a little too quirky at others, Hoffman’s directing debut has to rate as a minor success that engages emotionally to satisfy viewers while laying the foundation for bigger works to come from the actor-turned-filmmaker.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 91mins
UK Release Date: November 4, 2011