Jack Goes Boating

Jack Goes Boating, written by Robert Glaudini, based on the play of the same name by Glaudini, directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman (Jack), Amy Ryan (Connie), John Ortiz (Clyde) and Daphne Rubin-Vega (Lucy) (2010): You put Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performances in, say, this film, Capote, Mission Impossible III, and The Big Lebowski side-by-side-by-side-by-side, and you get one hell of an actor. He’s won an Oscar for his showy role in Capote, but it would be nice if he (or anyone else, for that matter) could win a Best Actor Oscar playing something more refined and more ‘real.’

Yes, I know Truman Capote was real — but the Academy now almost invariably rewards actors for imitating other people, not for acting per se. Ernest Borgnine would never win an Oscar for Marty now. He’d be beaten by either someone playing Abraham Lincoln, or someone screaming and flailing around the screen for 150 minutes. So it goes!

Hoffman plays Jack, a lonely limosuine driver whose best friends, the married Clyde and Lucy, set him up on a blind date with the shy Connie from Lucy’s workplace. We’ve seen versions of this film a number of times before (including in Marty), so pretty much everything fresh and new comes from the odd little plot twists and turns of character (Jack really loves reggae, for instance, and not in that showy Will-Smith-in-I-Am-Legend sorta way), and even moreso from acting.

Hoffman, directing himself, appears to have no ego — Jack is dumpy and blotchy; the rest of the cast looks about equally real. Stuff happens, though not much (the climax involves Jack cooking a dinner for Connie; I’m sure some sort of car chase at this point might have goosed the box office). Hoffman and the rest of his cast invest their characters with flawed and idiosyncratic humanity. This certainly isn’t a great movie, but it is a good one. Recommended.

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