September 10, 2010 by Liam
In Jack Goes Boating, Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as Jack, a lonely awkward guy who, along with his best friend Clyde (John Ortiz), works at a limousine company operated by his uncle. As our story begins, Jack is being set up on a blind date by Clyde and his wife Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega). Not a bad idea if you’re a little lonely. Not the best idea if you’re a little awkward. But, things work out when we meet Jack’s blind date Connie (Amy Ryan) who, herself, is a little off. The two make a connection, but their relationship is not without its hiccups.
When Connie is attacked on the subway, Jack visits her in the hospital and somehow or another offers to cook her dinner. She is ecstatic, telling Jack that nobody has ever cooked dinner for her before. Problem is that Jack has no experience in the kitchen. For the remainder of the movie, we witness as Jack learns to cook, leading up to the fateful evening of their dinner party. And at the same time we witness the development of therelationship between Jack and Connie, we witness the disintigration of the relationship between Clyde and Lucy due to an indiscretion on her part several years earlier that he is unable to forget. The result is a movie that explores the peaks and valleys of these two very different relationships.
Watching Jack Goes Boating, I couldn’t help but remember some of the better “quiet” movies I’ve seen in my life. Movies that are driven by story and character and not by a need to give us some grand message about the world. Instead, we just follow four seasons in the lives of these characters who could really be anybody. They could be your next door neighbor for all you know. They have jobs. They work. They come home. They have dinner parties. There are no gun fights or car chases. These characters aren’t out there facing off against the world. Instead, they just inhabit their small little place within it. And that, to me, was the biggest strength of the movie.
Jack Goes Boating is based on the play written by Bob Glaudini and represents Hoffman’s feature directing debut. But, based on what I saw, I’d have thought Hoffman had been directing his entire career. Although, given his solid work in front of the camera these last few years (including movies like Capote, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and Doubt to name just a few) it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he shows the same talent behind the lens. It’s almost as though he had been visualizing directing this moviefor years but just now stepped behind the camera. We can really only hope that he continues to tread these waters with the same brilliant results.