Jack Goes Boating - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Jack Goes Boating Reviews

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Super Reviewer
November 10, 2013
A film about ordinary people - perhaps they get a bit angrier about their lot in life than some of us do. The characters are struggling with their relationships, and we follow them as they move forward.
Super Reviewer
July 12, 2012
Throughout the years - either in leading roles like "Love Liza" "Capote" and "Doubt" or supporting roles such as "Boogie Nights" or "The Big Lebowski" - Philip Seymour Hoffman has always delivered consistency. As a result of this, he has become one of my favourite actors and like many respected performers he now takes his first step into directing. For his material, he chooses a play that he's familiar with (and one that he performed off-broadway). Wisely, Hoffman behind the camera doesn't go for anything flashy but instead, delivers a solid low-key character study.
Jack (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a lonely chauffeur to Manhattan's upper middle classes. He takes comfort in his reggae and secretly wants to a Rastafarian. He also possesses a shyness which leaves him with very few friends. The one's that he does have, are his neighbours Clyde (John Ortiz) and Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega). Playing match-maker, Lucy introduces him to another of life's shy souls; Connie (Amy Ryan). As they awkwardly attempt to make a connection, they find that life doesn't always have to be a struggle.
It's because of the range and high level of Hoffman's performances that I was so eager to see how he faired behind the camera. Now, this isn't a film that will instantly have you singing his praises from the rooftops but what it is, is a slow moving but deeply involving drama that pays attention to it's characters and their subtleties. This film is in no rush whatsoever but it's all the better for it. It allows us to completely get inside the minds and the hearts of the characters and allows the actors (in this case, four of them) to take centre stage and provide the goods. In keeping with playwright Robert Glaudini's off-broadway show, Hoffman casts the same actors; John Ortiz, Daphne Ruben-Vega and himself all reprise their roles. They all seem on very comfortable ground and new arrival Amy Ryan, no less so. Ultimately, this is a film about performances and they are all uniformly brilliant. They deliver vulnerable characters at odds with themselves and the world, showing extensive ranges of loneliness and weary outlooks.
An emotive and pragmatic slice-of-life that's strictly for lovers of slow moving cinema. Some may find it tentative or cloying but I found it showed an awareness from a welcome new director.
Super Reviewer
December 13, 2011
Directed and starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jack Goes Boating tells an interesting tale of love found and lost - using the parallel tales of Jack (Hoffman), a rather simple minded guy who is courting a damaged woman (terrific portrayal by Amy Ryan), and the couple who play matchmakers, while their own marriage dissolves, due to infidelities real and perceived.

Jack is an interesting character study, the kind of quirky dude that Hoffman plays so very well. He appears to be a fish out of water, and yet there's a certain nobility in his steadfast desire to learn and better himself - if nothing more than because he perceives that Ryan is requiring it of him. For example, the title of the film - after meeting in mid-winter, Ryan says that she'd like to go boating some time. This refers to the romantic image of man and woman in a row boat, drifting on a tranquil lake on a warm summer's day. Jack tells her he'd like to take her, but when it gets warmer. Unfortunately he can't swim, so the concept of being in the middle of a lake in a small craft scares him. The solution: he enlists his buddy and fellow limo driver Clyde (another wonderful performance by John Ortiz), to teach him how to swim.

Clyde is a true friend, who revels in Jack's courting, even while revealing to Jack that long term relationships aren't all they're cracked up to be. His attempts to wipe the mutual deeds of the past away concerning both he and his wife Lucy (an uneven performance by Daphne Rubin-Vega) are almost heartbreaking - he has forgiven her, but she can't do the same for him.

Hoffman's directing debut of this stage adaptation is a mixed bag. He shows glimpses of imagery, but remains too tied down to the linear presentation of the story while lingering too long on silent shots meant to convey deep meaning. Conversely he plays too fast and loose with some of the scenes, like cutting into the bedroom where Jack and Ryan have just had their first, aborted attempt at sex. It is revealed that Ryan is psychologically damaged (which the film infers earlier, yet never delves into why) - and yet the entire scene plays as a quirky mess, having no prior setup to ground it.

This is the type of film adaptation where I was wondering just how it would be presented on stage. Sure, it's a small, indie type film, but the action seems so over drawn and drawn out that you wonder how it would present over two or three acts.
Super Reviewer
September 7, 2010
For some reason beyond my understanding, I am a fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Not sure why..but I ALWAYS enjoy his movies. Is it his style? his demeanor? his fantastic acting abilities? his great choice in movie subjects? I don't know, but he did it again. This was a very nice, touching, moving drama that I probably wouldn't have enjoyed as much had he not been in it.
Super Reviewer
December 2, 2010
This film is the directorial debut of Philip Seymour Hoffman, and it is...pretty much what I figured or expected it to be. It very much fits in with the bulk of his filmography.

The story concerns a nice but awkward guy named Jack who, with the help of his best friend, learns ot come out of his shell and improve his life after he meets Connie, a woman similar to him in many ways who could very well be the perfect match for him. That's pretty much the plot. It's a tad bit like parts of American Beauty, only sweeter, and not dark or creepy.

This is definitely an indie film to it's core, but that's not a bad thing. It won't appeal to everyone, but if you like character driven pieces, then you should find this enjoyable. It's mostly a nice drama, with some romance and bits of comedy, although it's very reserved in that regard.

The acting is awesome. That should be expected though, given who is involved. Of the four main players, three of them are all reprising the roles they originated when this project was just a stage play. Also, as far as directing goes, Hoffman does a good job, although it's not really showy in terms of cinematic elements. Maybe that has something to do with it feeling much like a play since it started out as one.

I liked these characters. This is one of those movies that has a lot of realism to it, yet there's still some hope and idealism, even if not everything ever comes together perfectly (in the world the film shows, not the film itself). I'd like to see some more films helmed by Hoffman. I think he could be an interesting director to watch.

So yeah, if you're in the mood for a nice indie character study, or are a fan of Hoffman or Ryan (my two favorites here), give this a look. It's good stuff.
Super Reviewer
April 30, 2011
Phillip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut seems a little late in the coming. After all, a man with three Oscar nominations and many more stellar performances seems to hold a pretty firm grasp on the human condition. So while "Jack Goes Boating," an allegory of two innocent people holding onto each other while the rest of New York silently crumbles around them, initially feels a bit anticlimactic, it might be because we feel like we should've seen it about ten years ago.

And truly, everything about "Jack" seems a little wound down. Adapted from a play by Robert Glaudini, the film tells the story of Jack, a simpleminded limo driver who just wants to find a serious relationship. As the protagonist, Hoffman, who seems hell-bent on making himself look as repulsive as possible, resembles nothing so much as a large, fleshy baby. When his married friends Clyde (John Ortiz, "Public Enemies") and Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega, "Flawless") set him up with the slightly odd, sexually paranoid Connie (Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"), Jack's newborn demeanor cracks a little to show his gaping inexperience.

If Jack were a girl, he'd probably get a makeover and go shopping. Instead, he just learns how to swim and cook a meal. And slowly, as Jack's limited awareness of the world increases in scope, he realizes that just with his limo driver job and three friends, he might not have it so bad after all.

At its worst, "Jack Goes Boating" can be excruciatingly dull. At best, it is relaxing. As a film with very little ambition in regards to story content, "Jack" needs to rely on its characterizations in order to pull a viewer through. And although the four actors do an admirable job of inhabiting their respective characters, there isn't enough fat in the screenplay to cushion what essentially is a straightforward parable about surviving in New York City.

To Hoffman's credit, though, the film never feels much like a play - there is nary a strand of turgid, exhaustive dialogue so typical in stage-based adaptations. In fact, it might be the fact that its screenplay is too linear, too clear-cut in its plot progression that brings about its unfortunate downfall.

However, the film does seem to hits its stride somewhere in the second third. Jack and Connie, slightly off-kilter from the rest of the world, do a lot of hugging and kissing to make up for the melancholic devastation leaking out of their friends. But the best scenes happen in the swimming pool, as Clyde patiently teaches Jack how to hold his breath by visualizing the little chlorine bubbles gurgling around him. Later on, images of Jack lucidly slicing through the water are intercut with a center shot of him standing on a bridge practicing his strokes while the Fleet Foxes blast out in the background.

With his debut, Hoffman has proven his prowess behind the camera, but his story development still needs a little fine-tuning. But it's the little moments in between that make the short, imperfect "Jack Goes Boating" a worthwhile watch, which really speak to the overlying themes of the film. As his character Clyde would say, "Life is fucked up, but we get by."
Super Reviewer
½ January 4, 2010
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Ortiz, Richard Petrocelli, Thomas McCarthy, Amy Ryan, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Lola Glaudini, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Mason Pettit, Salvatore Inzerillo

Director: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Summary: Jack, a marijuana-smoking Manhattan limo driver, begins an unlikely regimen of self-improvement to win the heart of a fellow misfit named Connie (Amy Ryan). But as Jack learns to cook and swim for the benefit of his girl, he also witnesses the breakup of his best friends' marriage. An adaptation of Bob Glaudini's play.

My Thoughts: "A small cast with big performances. Philip Seymour Hoffman has vastly became a part of my long list of favorite actor's. He is always front and center in any film he's apart of no matter how small the part, you remember his performance. Jack and Connie have a relationship that is taking off, while Lucy and Clyde's relationship is falling apart. Jack and Connie are the oddest character's which make them absolutely perfect for one another. They are very awkward, but yet very sweet at the same time. I also enjoyed the friendship between Jack and Clyde. Not everyone is going to like this. But I enjoyed it."
Super Reviewer
December 5, 2009
I had almost passed Jack Goes Boating over but that would have been a huge mistake for it is so completely wonderful. It's a sad/funny/sweet/tragic/optimistic/thoughtful musing on love and humanity and the hope for a better tomorrow. You can tell the film is based on a play, but the screenplay and dialog is amazing all the same. The base material itself is wonderful, but I also really liked the visual style and music. Most of the locations are pretty washed out, but then you get these occasional bursts of color. It's all really realistic, but filmed in such a way that you realize the beauty that can actually be found in everyday, utilitarian locations. As for the music, Fleet Foxes has to be one of the most horribly underheard bands around; so the prominent use of 'Oliver James' and 'White Winter Hymnal' really added to my appreciation towards the film. It something we've seen many times, but I never get tired of seeing those we tag as 'dysfunctional' or 'weird' find themselves in a better place than those who are perfectly 'normal'.
Super Reviewer
½ May 21, 2010
"You've never been in a relationship for any length of time. A lot happens."

Jack Goes Boating is a raw, hard to categorize directorial debut for Philip Seymour Hoffman, adapted from the play of the same title.

I guess if I had to assign it a genre, it would be indie drama. The story follows the hesitantly blossoming relationship between Jack (Hoffman) and Connie (Amy Ryan), and the rocky, established relationship of their friends Clyde (John Ortiz) and Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega).

Jack Goes Boating reminded me of Two Lovers in some ways. It involves flawed people making decisions that aren't always the wisest ones, and dealing with things in their past that make their current relationships more difficult.

Don't expect this to be romantic or cutesy, it attempts to go for the "realistic" angle, with all the problems and realities that come with real adult relationships. That's derailed a bit by the occasionally awkward dialogue and characters that aren't really as fleshed out as they needed to be. We don't get much of a sense of who they used to be or what their past was like, and that would have added to the movie immensely. It's somewhat difficult to put into context the characters as they are now, without that information.

Still, I think this was a pretty decent debut from Hoffman. He's clearly in the process of learning what works from the other side of the camera, and it's puzzling why they didn't adjust the odd, romance novel-like dialogue in some places, but overall, Jack Goes Boating hints at a promising future. There are some poignant moments that really stuck out, to me. Fans of Hoffman and Ryan (count me as both) should check it out.
Super Reviewer
½ January 31, 2011
Jack Goes Boating is extremely intriguing! It's little messages of happiness surround a man who is incapable of many things. He is about 50 years old, and finally falling in love with a girl for the first time. She is his polar opposite, which is exactly what pulls them so closely together. This is a story of love, betrayal, and blocked romance! I am not a particularly huge fan of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, however, his performance moved the movie in more way than one. The final line of the film brought tears to my eyes, seeing how such a incapable man is actually capable of. From knowing nothing, to knowing everything, Jack Goes Boating is fantastic!
Super Reviewer
January 30, 2011
"Don't worry, I'm a good swimmer.
I knew you'd be good.
I am for you."

A limo driver's blind date sparks a tale of love, betrayal, friendship, and grace centered around two working-class New York City couples.

For its humor, emotional honesty, and glimpse of almost unfathomable decency in a world as untidy as Hoffman's Rastafarian locks, this film rises to a place among my all time favorites-- along with David Mamet's "State and Main". Although Hoffman's wonderfully imagined writer in the Mamet film shares some of Jack's ingenuous sensibility, Glaudini's writing and Hoffman's embodiment invest the doughy type with the necessary twiggy fiber to make the character heart-achingly real. Trailers and reviews give lots of specifics about plot, but thankfully do not catalogue all the film's pleasures. Jack and his boating date, Connie, are both outsiders and both uncannily patient-- driven perhaps more by uncompromising values than by fear. Clyde and Lucy, the aggressively magnanimous pair who mentor the new couple provide an important counterpoint. And all four actors in these central roles leave their egos someplace outside the frame enabling us to enjoy every surprising ripple of character. With the plot's unfolding, we are not taken for a ride but for a journey.
Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
½ September 19, 2010
Philip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut, "Jack Goes Boating," is a very odd film. I applaud Hoffman heartily for having the courage to be unusual in a time when originality is hated by audiences from coast to coast. We also need to thank Overture Films for their gutsy willingness to distribute a film that's impossible to pigeonhole.

What I love about "Jack Goes Boating" is that it's about ordinary people struggling with the things ordinary people really struggle with. It's so authentic. Hoffman plays a limousine driver with about a seventh-grade education, the kind of man you see everywhere in New York. The kind of man who drives movie stars around all day, but the kind of man no movie star ever notices. Hoffman notices.

Playing his best friend and fellow limo driver is John Ortiz, who is so good that I suspect he may get a considerable number of Supporting Actor nominations at the end of the year. He even may win a few. While Hoffman gets top billing, the story is almost as much about Ortiz' character, who is struggling with love and loneliness as much as Hoffman's character.

As the film starts, Ortiz and his girlfriend (Daphne Rubin-Vega) have set Hoffman up with Connie (beautifully played by Amy Ryan), a woman as socially inept and awkward as Hoffman's character. Initially you think the film is going to be the standard parody of extreme dorks and idiot savants. Gradually, almost without you realizing it, the film gets deeper and more complex, until you end up with one of the most raw and trenchant sequences depicting romantic implosion as you're likely to see all year. I was even reminded of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" From light comedy to Virginia Woolf -- how's that for surprising shifts in tone and content?

The problem is that sometimes this extreme originality comes across arch and downright weird. It doesn't flow effortlessly. When it's at its best, "Jack Goes Boating" is a feast for the mind and heart. It may not be perfect, but it's one of the most ambitious and interesting films of the year. There are still Americans making movies that are works of art!
Super Reviewer
January 29, 2012
Philip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut borrows heavily from indie flicks like "The Station Agent" and the Hoffman starring "Love Liza" but lacks any of the wit and charm of those titles. He plays a thirtysomething who is working up to his first ever date but his character just isn't affable enough for us to root for him with the enthusiasm the other characters display. His directing is competent enough and doesn't have the stageyness that can often plague the work of thesps who move behind the camera, but he needs better material if he plans to pursue this line.
Super Reviewer
½ January 15, 2012
Clyde(John Ortiz) and Lucy(Daphne Rubin-Vega) feel sorry for their single friend Jack(Philip Seymour Hoffman, who also directed), Clyde's fellow limo driver, and set him up with Connie(Amy Ryan), Lucy's struggling neophyte co-worker. Jack likes Connie and takes her mention of boating truly to heart. The only problem is he cannot swim, so Clyde suggests a pool in Harlem where he can learn until the temperature rises in both New York City and in his and Connie's hearts.

I resisted seeing "Jack Goes Boating" when it originally came out because I feared it would just be Philip Seymour Hoffman playing another one of his sad sack characters. Thankfully, that's not the case here, as Jack is simply imperfect, like the rest of us. That's the lesson in this engaging movie with its knowing performances, just as no relationship is perfect and neither is New York City with its divisions. The best any of us can do is try, sometimes with the odd romantic gestures.
Super Reviewer
April 1, 2011
A bittersweet story of one relationship beginning and another ending. Jack (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Cindy (Amy Ryan) are two damaged souls who are introduced by their married friends, Clyde (John Ortiz) and Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega). Jack and Clyde drive limousines for Jack's uncle, while Cindy and Lucy work at a mortuary in sales. This viewer enjoyed the film immensely, and was shocked at the explosion of emotion at the end. Based on a stage play, the film is still quite cinematic and the New York locations gave the film a definite ambiance that could not be manufactured anywhere else. The daily struggles of the main characters were constantly juxtaposed with the affluence of the clients who hired Jack and Clyde to take them shopping or to take their kid out for an ice cream. These guys are just trying to get ahead and make their way through the world. One sympathizes with their plight. And one cannot help but hope that Jack and Cindy will find something that lasts. Such tenderness, such patience, such genuine good feelings
Super Reviewer
September 13, 2010
Reminded me of the 50's movie Marty with Ernest Borgnine, that is with the Off Broadway edginess of drugs and sexual discovery thrown in. Hoffman as Jack works with Ortiz as Clyde. Ryan as Connie works with Rubin-Vega as Lucy. Clyde and Lucy set Jack and Connie up. Just as Jack and Connie's relationship begins to bloom the other couple's marriage begins to head downhill. Jack is an easy going guy with dreads and an affinity for music with a good vibe, namely reggae tracks. The soundtrack of the movie is filled with various tunes all with good vibes. Jack is a middle aged guy who wishes to learn to cook and swim in order to please Connie. Amy Ryan outshines Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance at times in acting out their courtship. Toward the end I found it disturbing with the casual drug use, but the final shots of the new couple are sweet. It is a feel good romance.
Super Reviewer
September 16, 2010
Tiny and at times lovely, this film is also often as much a trial as a joy. The story of an introverted fellow and the introverted gal he courts, JACK GOES BOATING starts off promisingly but as it gets more strange and slightly sour, it lost me. Even though it stars four terrific actors, it unravels during the drunken dinner party that is the last act, and I just stopped rooting for everybody. It's hard to say why; maybe on another day it would have seemed sweet to me, but on this particular day it merely tried my patience. Philip Seymour Hoffman makes his directing debut, and there are many nice touches, but they just don't make up for the skips in logic and the sour twists late in the story.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ April 11, 2013
Philip Seymour Hoffman has played some somewhat sorry suckers in his days, and now he has the chance to direct and star in an indie film about a shy, middle-aged bum who still lives with his uncle and doesn't know how to swim, and he ends up making a romantic comedy. Okay, maybe he not in all that much somewhat downputting stuff, or at least it doesn't seem like he is, because the man is just too blasted charming, as reflected by his making quite the lovable loser in this film. I must say, such an action is mighty impressive, because, woah boy, this Jack fella is a loser if there ever was one, so much so that he goes boating and doesn't even have the manhood to bring home fish. I don't know if he's necessarily in a lot of sad stuff, but it does seem like the only thing that distinguishes one P.S. Hoffman performance from another is the degree to which the character he is portraying is a loser, because when you down to it, Hoffman pretty much does keep playing the same roles, even though it does so charmingly. ... I don't necessarily know where I'm going to from there, partially because I can't help but continue to thing about my noting the boating aspect to this film, which makes this effort an indie Sundance entry about some bum who boats, so forget depressing, because this film sounds like it most has the potential to be boring. Well, people, rest assured that this film is far from as dull as this opener, because Hoffman's big directorial debut is a pretty entertaining one. Still, while the final product offers you a little of fun, the good times can roll on for only so long before slipping into the underwhelmingnenss that looms over this character study, partially becuase it could have done a bit more to flesh out, of all things, its characters.

You can only do so much to undercook the characters of a character study, and it's not like this film is intensely aiming to do just that, yet immediate development offputtingly borders on all-out nonexistent, and gradual exposition isn't too much meatier, fleshing out the depths of our leads just fine, but not so much so that you bond with this story as much as you could have, to where you could, at the very least, overlook conventionalism, or at least as much as you can. It's very hard to miss the conventionalism within this formulaic indie rom-com, which never stood a chance of being too unique, but much too often hits one familiar beat after another, drawing familiar characters, and building around them a familiar story structure that is nothing short of ripe with predictability. It doesn't take too long at all before you find yourself hardly capable of ignoring where this story is heading, and from then on the film begins a slow, but sure spiral downward, growing more and more bland until, before too long, you're left with an underwhelming final product, which is brought down largely by its conventionalism, but is in no way helped by its bloating. Running a mere 91 minutes, this film, on paper, doesn't appear to have a whole lot of time to drag things out, but when you get down to the final product, oh boy does it try to make time, taking on a bit of excess material, - much of which is awkwardly overdrawn by baby tooth-loose scene structuring - as well as a quantity of filler that borders on a wealth, thinning out plot that, quite frankly, can't really afford to be all that thinned out. Nevermind its being so underdeveloped, or its being so generic, or even its being so excessively bloated, because what ranks up there, if not stands alone up there is the biggest issue behind this story is, of course, its being just so thin in conflict, momentum and all around structure. The telling of this story gets to be a bit forceful because there's not a whole lot to this story to begin with, and there's nothing too terribly wrong with that, because we're talking about a indie rom-com, something that has the potential to hold the entertainment value that this effort delivers on just fine, but isn't enough to make the all-out, bonafide good film that this effort isn't entirely. Still, while the film is hardly one to stick in your memory banks all that firmly, it's hard not to enjoy it while you're following it, as it is fairly moving at times and consistently entertaining, partially because of the color to its musical tastes.

It's mighty hard to find good music nowadays, even in the indie market, which is often kind of underwhelming, no matter how much startingly better it typically is than any given diddy of the pop market, but with enough color to liven up, say, a film, as this product further proves, for although this film does only so much exploring of its obligatory indie soundtrack, it is just emphatic enough about the undeniably fair degree of charm within its so-so musical tastes to take on some liveliness that doesn't always need to be augmented by musicality to be palpable. The considerable indie realism that looms over this minimalist story thins out engagement value something fierce, so Robert Glaudini has his work cut out for him if he's going to compensate for dramatic underwhelmingness with colorful writing, and sure enough, this film's script, while overblown in certain areas and paper-thin in others, delivers on witty humor and believability to help keep you sticking with things. As for the characterization within Glaudini's script, like I said, it's pretty thin when it comes to development, telling you hardly nothing right off of the bat, and telling you only so much during the film's body, so it's not like we're looking at the most memorable of characters, yet what is done right in the drawing of our leads puts a human coat of color on things, thus making for characters who may be a bit too relatable for their own good, to the point of creating a bit of blandness, but earns a reasonable degree of your investment. There's a certain sensitivity behind this character study, whether it be in the fleshing out of human depths on paper, or in Philip Seymour Hoffman's direction, which has shortcomings that reflect Hoffman's lack of experience as a filmmaker, but is endearing in its charming delicacy, which breathes enough life into entertainment value - occasionally augmented by some nifty editing tastes that Brian A. Kates brings to life - to keep you going until more relatively dramatic notes come into play, finding themselves done justice by a heart within Hoffman's storytelling that particularly engages, maybe even moves. By the time we come to an almost surprisingly bittersweet ending, the final product as succeeded as a decent, if a little hard to remember character study, thanks to Hoffman's and Glaudini's flawed, yet enjoyable offscreen efforts, whose effectiveness is, of course, matched, if not topped by enjoyable onscreen efforts. As you can probably imagine, our performers have very little to work with, but we're still talking about a cast that, while small, is full of talent, and they all deliver, bringing enough charisma, chemistry and, at times, emotion to our lead characters to define them as relatably and charmingly human. This film is a very average one, no matter how much you would hope someone as big as Philip Seymour Hoffman would deliver, but when it's all said and done, what you're mostly likely to remember about this paint-by-the-numbers indie effort is its charm and talent, neither of which is too worthwhile, but considerable enough to make for an entertaining final product.

Overall, the film is thin in exposition, thick with conventionalism, and bloated by aimlessly excessive material, which can't quite pad substance out enough for you to come close to ignoring the minimalism within this story concept that makes the final product a naturally underwhelming one, though not to where you can't appreciate the color of the soundtrack, charm of the writing, reasonable inspiration of the direction and charismatic of the acting that all go into making "Jack Goes Boating" an adequately entertaining, if a bit forgettably average character piece.

2.5/5 - Fair
Super Reviewer
September 18, 2011
The film was ok. It kind of felt like a play than a film. There are some great moments in the movie. The tone of the film is a little off. I thought Philip Seymour Hoffman was ok in the lead role, but I felt like I have seen him play that type of character before in other films. John Ortiz, Amy Ryan, and Daphne Rubin Vega provide solid supporting work here. The pacing is also off. I do recommend the film especially for the performances.
Ryan M
Super Reviewer
½ February 5, 2011

Why is Philip Seymour Hoffman always in such depressing movies? His 2007 drama "The Savages" was enough to piss some depression-haters off, while his 2009 animated gem "Mary and Max" wasn't exactly a "happy" film either. "Jack Goes Boating" is a typically Hoffman film; depressing but deep. The only catch is that Hoffman directed the film, making it his directorial debut. Hoffman doesn't really deliver anything new with this film; although he manages to make "old" material work. This is a heartfelt drama through-and-through, and I admire Hoffman's craft. However, it's a very depressing and slow-moving film; well, to most people at least. You almost have to give Hoffman credit for wanting to create something that has about as much appeal as moldy cheese; and I HATE moldy cheese. So you should know what I mean when I say that. Nevertheless, it's still good filmmaking, and it's still entertaining to watch. You know what; it's actually pretty damn good. There's good acting to be found, good screen-writing, and there are several moments of fascination which would have made this film memorable if they had been either prolonged or more consistent. But the film is at its best when it forces you to think about the characters and the story; thus it actually feels as smart as it wants to be. I don't know if it's right to encourage Hoffman to make yet another film, since I think he's a better actor than he is a director, but it's good to see that his first directorial film actually works. None the less, if he does direct another film, then I will see it. This movie, on its own, was actually fairly satisfying. I won't say it's memorable, but I won't say it's forgettable either. There's little harm done in watching this film, so you shouldn't be ashamed when you quite possibly decide to ponder it. Knowing the kind of guy Hoffman was, I decided to expect quite a few things out of the film. And Hoffman delivers the kind of emotionally intense genius that he's so good at portraying and by all means, creating. This film is a sleeper hit for sure, and I don't think many will see it even if they know it is existent. But it's always interesting to see a good actor make a good film, and I always suspected that Hoffman was up to the challenge. No matter how good or bad you think it is, "Jack Goes Boating" serves as a damn good character study. Luckily, that's good enough for me; given the amount of wit, emotion, and substance present in this film. It can only be properly described by one word: different.

Jack is a lonely Limo-driver who hasn't found love in life. He's set up on a blind date one night and develops an affection for the woman that he meets. What follows is essentially this one, big emotional quest; which involves Jack trying to find his inner ambitions. Most of the experience is tender but forgettable, aside from a couple great moments. Such great moments include Jack visualizing himself swimming, as well as a big emotional fight somewhere near the end. The film works because it builds its characters well, and early enough in the film that I would count them as believable. Jack is just the kind of emotional guy that Philip Seymour Hoffman was born to play; an emotional being nigh devoid of emotion. Jack isn't meant to be liked; his experiences are meant to be felt. As is this film, which is definitely good, well-written, and all around pretty darn satisfying. Hoffman's adaptation of the play of the same name, which he also starred in (originally) is quirky and heartfelt; honest and bold. There's some sort of artsy charm to it; and even though it was sort of depressing, it was also quite uplifting at moments. Such emotional pain may not be easy to watch, and "Jack Goes Boating" almost becomes "emotionally disturbing" near the end. None the less, it's not a particularly tough sit-through; it's just not for everyone. But I've seen too many bad/mediocre films to count this one as bad, since it was actually pretty engaging for what it was. I also find it hilarious that a guy like Philip Seymour Hoffman can for the first time in his life make his own movie (for real, this time) and inhabit it with just about every aspect of his persona. I admire his directorial style; and it kind of makes me want to see more. I'm just hoping that Hoffman doesn't get carried away.

Just about any performance (or cameo) from Philip Seymour Hoffman is a good one. Hoffman is used to playing depressed, and perhaps even overly sentimental characters. Even if they have mixed emotions half of the time, I still like watching the character that Hoffman portrays. Jack is not his best character, nor is "Jack Goes Boating" his best film. However, it's good to see that the stress of operating the show from both ends of the camera didn't get to Hoffman; not completely. Some won't warm up to Hoffman's Jack character as much as I did, but if you want my personal take, then I shall do little more or less than indulge. Hoffman isn't an emotional rollercoaster of a human being in this film, but there were moments in the film where we learned just how emotionally unstable his character is. One such scene is the dinner-gone-wrong, in which Jack gets high and forgets the check the food he had been cooking for his other guests. This scene was sad; completely devoid of happiness or laughter. It exists to make you feel the emotional pain that a guy like Jack goes through, and that's what I loved about it. Amy Ryan and John Ortiz are also very entertaining to watch as just two of the major amigos of our buddy Jack, and they're admittedly more likable than the title character ever will be. But Hoffman runs this film more than they do; and if you don't like it, then you don't like it. There's no use in complaining.

Some people find this film pretentious and boring. I find it intelligent and well-made. Hoffman's directorial style isn't as madly seductive as I expected it would be, but then again he's no "genius", so to speak. But Hoffman displays more talent than most directors; taking familiar material and an un-original premise and transforming it all into one, big emotional piece of genuine awesomeness. OK, maybe it wasn't that awesome. But it was pretty damn entertaining none the less. I won't say it's a film that you'll like watching, but there's definitely entertainment to be found in Hoffman's little artistic touches. There were these little moments where Hoffman's direction felt visionary; masterful. But these were only moments, and shortly afterward, Hoffman's film would stop being great and go back to being good. But good is good enough; and Hoffman's film is indeed the kind of "good" that I can easily warm up to. I admit that it's depressing and hard to relate to in some instances, but it's never unwatchable and certainly not as flat-out generic as some seem to think it is. I think some people need to look at the film from Hoffman's point of view. I do believe that it's very possible for someone to like this film; but I don't expect most to. "Jack Goes Boating" is a film to be admired, but only be a select group of people. I don't suppose it's anything to remember or "go down in cinematic history", but it's Hoffman's directorial debut, and I sure do like how it looks and feels. I'd recommend it; if only to those who can stand consistently depressing tones.

Some films, like this one, don't care whether you enjoyed watching them when it's over. This film feels personal to Hoffman, who helms the picture as if he's done it many times before. The film was definitely good, in my opinion, and it's one of those films that has the sort of grit and wit required to make such familiar waters worth treading. Each character has emotions; and each actor fits their persona. Hoffman is genuinely good at playing uncomfortable men in even more uncomfortable situations, and maybe that's why "Jack Goes Boating" works as much as it does. It's not a great movie; I don't see how it even has the chance to be. But I will tell you this; it's one of the most unappealing movies of 2010 and I still liked it. Why? Why didn't I think it was pretentious? Well, maybe because the truth is that it's not, and it has the kind of emotions and stylistic elements that most dramas don't. Plus, it never goes into melodrama; which is ALWAYS a good thing. None the less, these are dark waters. Row your boat carefully, and only watch the film if you can stick with it. Hoffman's films are seldom a good time, but there's almost always entertaining for their depiction of an intense character study. This film, which is yet another character study starring Hoffman, doesn't want to be anything special. It's not a wondrous success, but it makes me want to see what else Hoffman can do with his directorial style. I like what he's done here, and for the better or for the worst, "Jack Goes Boating" is the "good" kind of depressing. It sets a good tone; and I liked that. It's the kind of film that the audience would love to just see blow up into some huge cinematic combustion, but it will cease to do anything more than merely explode with the kind of emotional passion that only a up-and-coming talent can deliver. This particular film mixes humor with drama, and even when you laugh, it still hurts. That's how unappealing but touching the whole experience was, and I can't do much more than recommend that you see it. Those are my final words, friend.
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