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MOVIE REVIEW: Jack Goes Boating

Philip Seymour Hoffman--he can direct, too

Jack Goes Boating: Rates a B.
Courtesy photo

Philip goes directing.

Acting virtuoso Philip Seymour Hoffman makes his directorial debut in Jack Goes Boating. And the movie doesn’t sink. It floats effortless into my heart as one of the surprise movies of the year.

The trailers for this didn’t do it justice, because I don’t have sympathy for adult characters that are so neurotic and bizarre they screw up everything they touch. Even with friends that want to help them out by setting them up on dates.

But when Hoffman’s best friend and co-worker at the limousine company sets him up with his wife’s co-worker, the courtship is awkward.

Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) is amazing, as always. I love the fact that from the things we see in this movie, we speculate on what may have happened to her in the past. Was she raped? Molested? Maybe she’s just weird. They never tell us, and we don’t need to know. Just like in real life when you have a bizarre co-worker you can’t figure out, but never get to know well enough to find out.

Hoffman appears to not be the most ambitious guy in the world, and content with his lot in life.

The other couple featured in this movie, includes John Ortiz (who also produced, and did this play on Broadway). His performance is Oscar worthy.

There are scenes when he’s teaching Hoffman to swim that are just beautiful. The friendship he expresses with his time, patience, and smile are priceless. This movie really warmed my heart on a cold, snowy day (okay…we’re having record heat waves here in San Diego, but it was snowing through most of that movie).

Ortiz’s onscreen wife is played by Latin singer Daphne Rubin-Vega. I loved the fiery attitude she portrayed. They were a marvelous looking couple, that like most married couples, had a few secrets.

The way Ortiz drinks just a little too much and gets mean, and follows it by a bunch of apologies; or he can’t stop telling Hoffman how much he loves him and how he’s his best friend – seemed so much more realistic than the usual drunk characters we see in movies that go over-the-top slurring every word.

The conversation as the first date ends between Hoffman and Ryan is sweet. The love scenes are awkward, but also have a sweet tenderness. You’re sitting in your seat rooting for every person in this movie.

Hoffman has shown his talented in many movies, but he’s done some pictures I haven’t cared for (Capote, Syndecdoche New York). It makes it all the more surprising that I came into this movie expecting the worst, and being very pleasantly surprised.

In the movie Grand Canyon, Danny Glover asks Kevin Kline if he set him up with his black co-worker because it was the only other black person he knew. And in this, you feel like maybe Hoffman and Ryan were set up because they were both such sad sacks that nobody else would have. Once you realize their friends truly love them, you think otherwise.

This movie started out as a play (which is also in town until October 9th). The stage material works nicely on the big screen.

I’m guessing some people might be bored by this character study, but there wasn’t a second in it that I felt that way. It could’ve used a few more touches of humor here and there, but the acting performances more than make up for that.

It’s an indie film that didn’t go down the dark paths you might expect.

Hoffman proves he’s a generous and talented director. I’ll be looking forward to his next picture.

I’m giving this a B.