JACK GOES BOATING Review


This is a story of the human spirit. The difference here being the spirit of the human in question is an awkward, kind, happy yet self-secluded man named Jack. And he is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. In its trailers this looked to be a nice if not somewhat sappy love story about a man who normally feels like an outcast being given the chance to find love by an equally kind woman. It's credibility and the expectations coming along with it were no doubt heightened when I realized Mr. Hoffman was making his directorial debut with this as well as taking the lead role. It is not abnormal to see Hoffman in a tormented role, but it felt like there must have really been something there in the script or in the original story he read that made him connect or at least really care about this character. Needless to say, in the end, I expected a little more. It had its moments of deep emotion, its little nuances that pulled at your heart, but the story is simply too thin to justify its running time and Hoffmans Jack isn't enticing enough to sustain a full feature.

It is clear that as a director, Hoffman is interested in evoking the true emotions of his characters in certain moments onto the screen, presenting these raw, very time specific feelings not only through facial expressions but with the entire atmosphere and the position these people hold themselves in while their inner feelings are elsewhere. He gives the sections of the film strong indie background music and makes beautiful camera movements around the characters. It is nice and we truly do care about these people we are watching, but as I said before, these are moments, and only that. It isn't easy to touch on some of the things Hoffman is looking for and in that aspect he succeeds, but they are only a small part of a bigger picture and the bigger picture suffers. I would venture to say Hoffman would make a better music video director than a filmmaker. His greatest strength though is where his origins lie. Not only his own acting here, but being able to choose actors who can bring these middle of the road people to life and make us believe in them and their struggles. This never proves more true than when Amy Ryan is on screen. As Jacks love interest Connie, Ryan is completely adorable and the only character we really feel we could get to know and be comfortable around them. She is charming and brings a much needed balance to a film that is otherwise weighed down by too much push for trying to be artistic and care-free.

While only at a mere hour and a half, "Jack Goes Boating" still limps to its conclusion and we are able to see where it is going even if its climactic dinner scene is one of the finer examples of out right acting in a film of recent memory. The tone is there, happy with an underlying dimness, Hoffman gets the visuals, going between traditional set-ups and ones that involve us seeing the experiences through Jacks own point of view. Some shots are beautiful, others seem static. Much like the film itself. It is a movie of moments and no doubt a learning experience for this great actor. He gets a passing grade here, but no doubt has gained more knowledge than he ever expected that will apply to his next effort and make it everything a film by Philip Seymour Hoffman should be.