Jack Goes Boating
Philip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut owes a lot to his theatre background
Philip Seymour Hoffman goes back to his theatrical roots for his directorial debut, reprising the central role he played on stage in Bob Glaudini’s 2007 off-Broadway hit. Hoffman plays the titular Jack, a shy and withdrawn New York limo driver whose best friend Clyde (John Ortiz) tries to set him up with the equally withdrawn Connie (Gone Baby Gone’s Amy Ryan).
The mechanics required to bring Jack and Connie together put an additional stress on Clyde, whose relationship with his live-in girlfriend Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega) is also under considerable duress.
Betraying its theatrical origins, Jack Goes Boating builds up each character in microscopic detail leading towards a climax of excruciating social awkwardness, as Jack attempts to cook dinner for his friends. Clyde rashly attempts to spice up the evening with some hashish and then some freshly-scored cocaine, leading to predictable but well-observed scenes of domestic disharmony.
Hoffman’s stature as an actor has remained considerable since his breakout roles in Boogie Nights and Magnolia, and his Oscar-winning turn as Truman Capote, and Jack Goes Boating shows that he can direct with considerable sensitivity. As the plot summary suggests, Jack Goes Boating is based on a deliberately slight and traditionally structured play, and Hoffman’s cast recreate their stage roles with aplomb. Ortiz and Rubin-Vega capture the essence of two strong people who find themselves constrained by a weakening relationship, Hoffman provides a happy, convincing centre as Jack, and Ryan, the only newcomer to the cast, notably underplays her role as the dowdy Connie.
Finishing on a bitter-sweet coda, Jack Goes Boating’s subtle and occasionally poetic dissection of ordinary life in the Queens district is more of a theatrical rather than a cinematic experience, but is no less enjoyable for that.
Selected release from Fri 4 Nov.