Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut “Jack Goes Boating” is a pleasantly smooth ride through emotions both good and bad.
The film is based on an off-Broadway play written by Robert Glaudini and most of the cast members return to their roles, including Hoffman as the titular character. The fact that it is as tenderly heartfelt as it is comically charming is trumped only by the spectacularly skilled performances from everyone involved.
Hoffman plays a limo driver named Jack. He has got vague dreams of landing a job with the MTA as well as an odd obsession with reggae that has prompted him to begin a half-hearted attempt at growing dreadlocks. However, when it comes to love and romance, Jack has little experience.
Jack spends most of his time hanging out with his best friend and coworker Clyde (John Oritz) and his wife Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega). Sensing Jack’s inherent loneliness, the couple sets Jack up with Connie (Amy Ryan), Lucy’s coworker at a Brooklyn-based funeral home.
Connie has got baggage of her own. However, simply being around her inspires Jack to learn to cook, pursue a new career and take swimming lessons from Clyde so that he can take Connie on a romantic boat ride when the weather heats up. But while Jack and Connie cautiously circle commitment, Clyde and Lucy’s marriage begins to disintegrate.
“Jack Goes Boating” is as heartbreaking as it is hopeful yet Hoffman and Glaudini are careful to retain a balance of both during the final few moments of the flick. The movie does not fall victim to an overwhelming sense of depression, which it could have easily done in the wrong hands.
Instead, a realistic sense of optimism takes over the viewer. We can all hope for the best but nobody knows what the future may hold. And Glaudini does a splendid job of crafting dialogue that is just intimate enough to pass through this authentic point of view without coming across as cheesy.
Moreover, Hoffman’s directorial skills are fantastic, demonstrated especially well during the pinnacle moment of the movie in which anticipation and anxiety collide. This scene is also when each of the movie’s four main actors shows what they are capable of – sheer greatness.
“Jack Goes Boating” (R – 91 minutes) is now available on DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley. See also “Screenwriter Robert Glaudini balances emotions in ‘Boating’.”
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