Thursday, January 27, 2011

Under 250: Jack Goes Boating

Jack Goes Boating is the directorial debut of the undeniably talented Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Hoffman is one of those rare actors I'll watch in just about anything.  For a none-too-slight ruddy blonde dude, he's a remarkable chameleon, as believable as Truman Capote as he is a sketchy priest or aging radio hipster.  Here, Hoffman fits just as easily into his new role behind the camera to breathe life into a fresh little indie about relationships.   The film is as wryly comic as it is steeped in the dramatic deep end of betrayal and sexual dynamics.  Hoffman has cast himself as Jack, a sloppy limo driver who embarks on a journey of self-improvement in an attempt to win the heart of a bizarrely neurotic woman (Amy Ryan) prone to exaggeration and clearly suffering from psychological issues of her own.  Between them are their mutual friends Clyde (John Ortiz) and Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), a married couple whose deteriorating relationship may destroy Jack's future even as they are his biggest advocates.  While the characters are spectacularly flawed and the film's texture is occasionally uneven (Ortiz and Rubin-Vega's performances feel quite stagey while Ryan and Hoffman's are clearly cinematic),  Hoffman finds a subtle beauty in the day to day movement of our urban working class foursome,  and there's a gentle humor that keeps the story, and its characters, steadily afloat.  

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