Review: Jack Goes Boating (Sundance)
PLOT: Jack (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a limo driver working in New York. An unconventional man to say the least, the dread-locked Jack has a hard time making any sort of romantic connection, and his only social interactions come from his best friend and fellow limo driver, Clyde (John Ortiz), and his wife, Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega). One night, the couple sets him up with Connie (Amy Ryan), who, like Jack, is similarly awkward in social situations. The two begin a tentative romance, as Jack begins to look for a new direction in his life, which includes learning to cook, and swim.
REVIEW: JACK GOES BOATING was one of the films I was most looking forward to catching at Sundance this year, simply due to the fact that it stars Philip Seymour Hoffman. Turns out, not only does he act in the film, but it's also his directorial debut, and is an adaptation of an off-Broadway play he appeared in a few years ago.
And therein lies the problem. Like many other play-into-film adaptations, JACK GOES BOATING simply does not make for a very dynamic film, with the plot coming off as stagey, and uneventful. All of the characters pretty much spend the the entire ninety minutes either talking about how quirky they are (oh wow, Hoffman wears dreads and can`t swim- tee hee hee!), or arguing about their failing relationships. It`s like a Gen-X movie, except instead of spending ninety minutes listening to twenty-something complain, we spend the time listening to forty year olds do it.
In many ways, this reminds me of an earlier Hoffman film called LOVE LIZA. While I liked that film a lot more than this one, it suffers from many of the same problems BOATING suffers from, mainly that the central character, while quirky, is not necessarily someone you'll want to spend ninety minutes with. The whole, wanna-be Rastafarian aspect suggested by his love of reggae and his dreads is pretty much dropped after the first ten minutes, and for the rest of the film, he just comes across as boring, as do most of the other characters.
For me, JACK GOES BOATING was a film I truly wanted to love, and to be sure, it does have some redeeming qualities. While the characters are dull, the acting is solid all around, as would be expected from the cast. Hoffman also has a good visual sense, with the film having a nice, warm look. I also appreciated his use of music, with the film featuring several songs by indie-band Grizzly Bear, and the occasional musical interludes are easily the best thing about the film.
Now, it could be that had I not seen this movie amidst so many other incredible films at Sundance I might have enjoyed it more, or at least been more open-minded. Perhaps somewhere down the line, I`ll give it another look, but that doesn't change the fact that, as a film, it failed to entertain me, or cause me to have any emotional reaction, which, in my eyes, makes this a failure.
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