12:40pm Tuesday 8th November 2011
By Mark Foker
Philip Seymour Hoffman is probably one of the greatest character actors of his generation. He can be the epitome of cool as he was in ‘Almost Famous’ and ‘The Boat that Rocked’ or a slimy political aid in ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’, he even turned his hand to comedy when he played Ben Stiller's best friend in ‘Along Came Polly’ . But whatever the role you can be sure that he will steal every scene.
This time Hoffman not only headlines the cast but also makes his directing debut.
‘Jack Goes Boating’ was originally an off-Broadway play written by Robert Glaudini who also wrote the screenplay for the film. The story centres on two couples in a working class area of New York City. Jack (Hoffman) is a dreadlock wearing limousine driver who works with his best friend Clyde (John Ortiz). Clyde and his wife Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega) set Jack up on a blind date with Lucy’s work colleague Connie (Amy Ryan) because they feel that Jack will never pluck up the courage to ask a girl out due to his shyness.
That’s pretty much the whole synopsis which I must admit does sound a little dull. However, once you start watching the film you find yourself getting drawn into the story and that you start to care about the characters. For all their matchmaking and appearance as a happy couple, Clyde and Lucy have problems of their own with a slow burning self destruction of their relationship. While on the other hand Jack and Connie’s relationship looks like a non-starter but grows in sweet and moving way. Connie tells Jack that she has always wanted a man to cook for her and to take her boating so naturally Jack is determined to learn to cook but will only consider the boating if Clyde teaches him to swim.
Philip Seymour Hoffman does a good job in directing the film and surprisingly isn’t afraid of giving himself plenty of unflattering close-ups which shows up his blotchy red face and in one scene he even gets his kit off. You may need to cover your eyes at that point. You can see how this was a stage play as much of the acting takes place in the one apartment. Also the climatic dinner party that Jack organises does have that ‘Abigail’s Party’ awkwardness.
This film will not be to everybody’s taste. So if you’re the type of person who favours robots, vampires and plenty of CGI then stay away. But what you do get is a master class in acting. This notched up my ‘fairly dull’ comment to quite ‘thought provoking’.
Three stars out of five.
Out Now certificate 15
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