Jack Goes Boating * * * *

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Director: Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Screenplay: Robert Glaudini.
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Richard Petrocelli, Thomas McCarthy.

Throughout the years – either in leading roles like “Love Liza” “Capote” and “Doubt” or supporting roles such as “Boogie Nights” or “The Big Lebowski” – Philip Seymour Hoffman has always delivered consistency. As a result of this, he has become one of my favourite actors and like many respected performers he now takes his first step into directing. For his material, he chooses a play that he’s familiar with (and one that he performed off-broadway). Wisely, Hoffman behind the camera doesn’t go for anything flashy but instead, delivers a solid low-key character study.

Jack (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a lonely chauffeur to Manhattan’s upper middle classes. He takes comfort in his reggae and secretly wants to be a Rastafarian. He also possesses a shyness which leaves him with very few friends. The one’s that he does have, are his neighbours Clyde (John Ortiz) and Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega). Playing match-maker, Lucy introduces him to another of life’s shy souls; Connie (Amy Ryan). As they awkwardly attempt to make a connection, they find that life doesn’t always have to be a struggle.

It’s because of the range and high level of Hoffman’s performances that I was so eager to see how he faired behind the camera. Now, this isn’t a film that will instantly have you singing his praises from the rooftops but what it is, is a slow moving and deeply involving drama that pays attention to it’s characters and their subtleties. This film is in no rush whatsoever but it’s all the better for it. It allows us to completely get inside the minds and the hearts of the characters and allows the actors (in this case, four of them) to take centre stage and provide the goods. In keeping with playwright Robert Glaudini’s off-broadway show, Hoffman casts the same actors; John Ortiz, Daphne Ruben-Vega and himself all reprise their roles. They all seem on very comfortable ground and new arrival Amy Ryan, no less so. Ultimately, this is a film about performances and they are all uniformly brilliant. They deliver vulnerable characters at odds with themselves and the world, showing extensive ranges of loneliness and weary outlooks.

An emotive and pragmatic slice-of-life that’s strictly for lovers of slow moving cinema. Some may find it tentative or cloying but I found it showed an awareness from a welcome new director.

Mark Walker

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15 Responses to “Jack Goes Boating * * * *”

  1. Definitely a film that has been on my radar for quite a while now, but like so many films it gets bumped down the list by newer films.

    thanks for the great write up. I am very interested now!!

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    • Cheers Scott. I really like it man. I can see why a lot of people would be put off as very little actually happens but I love these small film’s that reflect life’s struggles. I could also watch Hoffman in anything. He’s a marvellous actor.

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  2. Hoffman is also one of my favorite actors. Anytime he’s on screen it’s impossible to look away. I’m really looking forward to Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘The Master’ with Hoffman and Phoenix.

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    • Oh! Can’t wait for The Master. It looks absolutely superb. It seems that Anderson and Hoffman have a little director/actor combination going on? (except for There Will Be Blood)

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  3. I’m not sure if I’m familiar with this one, which is surprising since I consider myself a pretty big fan of Hoffman’s work. Looks like I’ve got another one to check out, Mark!

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    • If your a fan of Hoffman Andy, you should definitely check it out. It’s not that different from some of his other low-key indie film’s. If you’ve enjoyed those then this shouldn’t disappoint too much.

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  4. I’ve grown to respect Philip Seymour Hoffman more and more now. Sounds like Jack is a role tailor made for him. He’s excellent even in supporting parts, like in Ides of March, so nice to see him in the lead role.

    Still waiting for your Glaswegian review Mark ;)

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    • The first time I came across Hoffman was in Scent Of A Woman Ruth. After that, he went from strength to strength. I consider him amongst my top five favourite actors.

      That review will be up in the next day or two Ruth. I’ve not forgotten. I think I’ll change it from strictly Glaswegian to a general Scottish review, where I can throw in some words that aren’t necessarily native to Glasgow but traditional Scots overall.

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      • What?? He was in Scent Of A Woman? I like that movie but didn’t realize he was there. What part did he have?

        Sounds good about the review! Looking forward to it :D

        P.S. I’ll have my musings about the Highlander casting in my GB post tomorrow, I haven’t blogged about my beloved Scot in a while.

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      • Yeah, was in it. He played the so-called friend of Chris O’Donnell’s character. He was a bit of a slime-ball. It was him that appeared at the end hearing with his rich daddy and O’Donnell turns up with Pacino as he does his big rant.

        What do you mean you haven’t blogged about Butler for a while? You certainly talk of him plenty LOL ;-) I look forward to your post though, that should be an interesting one.

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      • Well you can check the blog, I barely mention him other than in comments. Yes I do talk about the bloke a lot, I mean he’s my #1 crush, so naturally :D I’m quite loyal w/ my crushes, I’ve been a fan of his since 2005 because of Phantom of the Opera. What is it with you Scottish guys? Must be in the water, ha..ha..

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      • Haha, or the whisky! Don’t get me wrong, I do like him. I just wish he’d pick better projects. He’s better than a lot of the stuff he ends up in.

        There’s a thing with Scottish people as well though… You don’t let someone get too above themselves before clawing the feet away from them. On the one hand we’re proud of them but also can’t resist having a little go at them. Don’t know why we do it really.

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      • Oh yeah I agree, I didn’t even watch Gamer and I almost skipped The Ugly Truth entirely if my friend didn’t invite me to see it at her place. But hey, actors are allowed to cash it in every once in a while, he’s managed to vary his roles since, I mean if you look at his filmography, he’s really done a lot of different genres and roles, and I know he’s got a few interesting projects coming up too,

        I think I get what you mean about the Scottish thing, I think that’s fair. You can be proud of ‘em but we can also disagree w/ their choices. Heck I’m actually not that patriotic about my homeland ahah, but then again I’ve been in the US longer so it’s my adopted country now.

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  5. Nice one, Mark! I’ll check this one out. PSH is one of my favorite actors; insanely talented. I’m interested in seeing how he did behind the camera for a change.

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