Jack Goes Boating is as interesting as its title. Like the boat on the lake Jack goes boating on, it intentionally doesn’t go anywhere. Good character studies rarely do.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is sad sack, Jack. He also directs. Jack is a plodder getting through life a day at a time. He doesn’t get too emotional about anything one way or another. Complete contrast to Jack is over-the-top friends Clyde and Lucy. They’re played by John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega. Heavily drugged and unhappy in their marriage, they hook Jack up with her co-worker Connie done nicely by Amy Ryan.
Her temperament is much like Jack’s. How their relationship blooms and the married couple’s disintegrates is why Jack goes boating. Hoffman wisely does his movie like the play its based on. You get act one, act two and act three.
Hoffman gives you an instant overview of his characters and then patiently peels back the layers a piece at a time.
One of the great character actors of all time, Hoffman clearly loves characters. He nurses these along, slowly and patiently. You’re treated like the next door neighbor, or that proverbial fly on the wall. You care but can’t do anything about the coming catastrophe. A couple of scenes — especially one involving cooking — will have you impatient and wanting to shout at the screen to help the characters out.
This skill and the simplicity of Hoffman’s storytelling and how he unfolds their stories is where this film’s genius lies.
Jack Goes Boating, you should go boating, too.
5 stars/4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars / 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars / 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars / 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself