By: Mark Distefano
Rating: 9 out of 10
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is one of the most versatile and talented actors around. A native of Fairport, New York, he has been on a hot streak since he won the Best Actor Oscar for his work in 2005’s Capote. Since then, he has captivated us with performances in Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, The Savages, and his recent Oscar nominated performance alongside Meryl Streep in Doubt. Now the acclaimed actor is making his directorial debut in Jack Goes Boating, a film that is based on the play of the same name.
The play, Jack Goes Boating, was by written by Bob Glaudini, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman was in the play as well. The film is produced through Labyrinth Theater Company, who also produced the play. For the film adaptation, Hoffman and Glaudini co-wrote the script together.
Hoffman plays Jack, reprising his same role from the play. Jack is a simple, often anxious character. He is a limousine driver who believes in “positive vibes” and Reggae music. He just wants to lead a happy life. He spends his days with his best friend and co-worker Clyde, and his wife Lucy. Clyde and Lucy are played by John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega, both whom were in the play as well. In order to make Jack’s life more fulfilling, Lucy sets up Jack with her co-worker, Connie (played by Amy Ryan). Connie is someone who is off-beat and sweet, just what Jack is looking for. She says she always wanted to go boating, and Jack wants to take her boating (simple enough), so he takes swimming lessons with Clyde and learns to cook along the way. As Jack and Connie try to develop a relationship, Clyde and Lucy face the unresolved issues of their past.
Hoffman is a dream director for any actor. As an actor, he understands the difference between good characters and great characters, and he brings his knowledge to guide the film in the right direction. The weight of the film doesn’t weigh on him alone though, the chemistry between all four principle characters is what makes the film great. Both John Ortiz and Hoffman served as artistic directors on the play, so there is a cosmic chemistry between them that seems effortless. Amy Ryan is the only actor on screen that wasn’t in the play, but she takes the role and makes it her own. She is just as versatile as Hoffman, from being shocking in Gone Baby Gone to being hilarious on T.V’s “The Office”. Whenever they’re on screen together, you root for them. Along the way Jack tells her that he wants “Someone who likes music…someone who’s positive”, and in response to what she wants, he simply replies, “I could be some of those things”. When Ortiz and Vega are onscreen, they mesmerize the audience with their brilliance, and you hope for the best. That’s what Jack Goes Boating is about, imperfect people trying to find the perfection in relationships.
This film is near perfect, and only because of the fact that the film is more structured like a play than a film. It’s not a bad thing, but the audience may feel wanting more at the end. Apart from that, the film is great. The dry humor is more than enough to please the audience. The scene where Clyde and Lucy express their love for each other and their friends, through sharing a Hookah, is hysterical. The scene where Connie talks about her father in a coma, and Jack’s reaction, will have audiences laughing as well. The score by Grizzly Bear helps to set the tone for the offbeat and wonderful scenes in the film
Hoffman leads an extraordinary ensemble cast in this film. This is a great debut for him as a director and another great performance by him as well. With award season coming up, the competition is looking to be fierce, but don’t see it for the awards it may receive. See it to enjoy the beauty of imperfection in our everyday life. That’s what this film achieves.