This review was originally published on January 26 as a Sundance review. JACK GOES BOATING is now open in NY and LA, with expansion next week.
Writer/Director: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Thomas McCarthy
Studio: Overture Films
A few days ago marked the world premiere of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s offbeat comedy, JACK GOES BOATING. This feature is also the directorial debut for the Hoff, who already carries quite the impressive acting resume. Before becoming a feature film, JACK GOES BOATING was a 2007 play (that Hoffman also starred in), and was written by Bob Glaudini (who wrote BOATING’s screenplay as well).
In this story of broken - and sometimes clumsy - romance, Hoffman stars as Jack, a limo driver who dreams of better days and better pay. His daily pastimes are hanging out with best friend and fellow limo driver, Clyde (John Ortiz), and jamming to reggae (he’s even given his hair a weak attempt at dreadlocks). Jack wants love, and Jack may have found love when Clyde and his backbiting wife, Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), set him up on a blind date with Lucy’s co-worker, Connie (Amy Ryan- who is best known for her brief stint on “The Office”).
A broken nose on a train ride and a boss (Tom McCarthy) that can’t seem to keep his hands away from her upper torso (it gave me great pleasure to watch Tom play a creepster) has contributed to Connie’s idea that love just isn’t her thing. But this doesn’t stop her from giving Jack a chance. After the date, Connie tells Jack she wants to go boating, so Jack makes a promise to take her boating once winter passes. There’s only one problem (which he fails to mention) - he can’t swim. Additionally, after accidentally signing up to cook for her (besides Mom, nobody’s ever cooked for Connie), Jack goes on an awkward journey to learn how to cook and swim.
Let’s start this off with Hoffman, who never ceases to amaze me with his performances. It’s very clear that this man takes acting very seriously. Normally, Jack and Connie would never be a match, but Philip brings a strange, sad charm to his character. It works and it works well. You don’t feel bad for the guy, but you do want to see him find whatever it is he’s looking for.
Hoffman did a really impressive job balancing comedy and drama. Being a first-time director, I’m sure this isn’t an easy task. There are scenes in the film that BOATING’s audience will laugh at, while simultaneously questioning that laugh. I think we call that “bittersweet.”
The big surprise in this film comes from John Ortiz. Acting next to Hoffman, he could easily have a big shadow cast over him, but Ortiz holds his ground quite well. Clyde is a funny man, but when things begin to spiral out of control and his emotions get the best of him when his love life isn’t exactly how he first imagined, my heart ached for him a little. Love is sometimes a bitch.
JACK GOES BOATING is a pretty touching story about how love can be (often at the same time) awkward, funny, and important.