Jack Goes Boating * * * *
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.