Jack Goes Boating (12A)
Shy limo driver Jack works for his uncle. He’s lonely and can call on only one friend, fellow driver Clyde, who has Jack’s best interests at heart and wants to fix him up with Connie.
But Connie is odd. She’s a victim – damaged goods. Diffident Jack perseveres and their hesitant relationship becomes a little more concrete – just as Clyde’s marriage with unfaithful wife Lucy starts its final disintegration.
A tight four-hander based on the stage play by Robert Glaudini, Jack Goes Boating is transferred to the screen with the same intimacy that made the theatre production such a hit. Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Ortiz and Daphne Rubin-Vega return as Jack, Clyde and Lucy; newcomer Amy Ryan joins the cast as Connie.
This is a gentle, cautious romance focusing on people for whom love has been and gone, or maybe was never there at all. What’s more it retains the parallels of the stage version with Jack and Connie’s burgeoning tenderness mirroring the problems in the Clyde/Lucy partnership. The issue is that everyone is talking about Jack; no-one seems to be responding to anyone else…
Hoffman’s cinematic directorial debut – he has done a vast amount in the theatre – is a slow-burning comedy drama that is also laced with frustration, regret, anger and sadness. If it occasionally tips into Edward Albee/Virginia Woolf territory then it does so with a nod to that excoriating classic of recrimination and deceit.
The frustration is given life by Ortiz, who is inexorably driven to make an epic statement on his marriage by forcing his wife into a confrontation. All Jack (and Connie) can do is watch and despair. The action builds to a surreal bedroom scene between Jack and Connie (she’s not ready) and then onward to an apocalyptic dinner party that combines booze, drugs and bad cooking.
Hoffman and Ortiz have been theatre collaborators for years and theirs is a perfect partnership built on trust and mutual respect. Thus the interplay between both men has an added dimension of plausibility and, perhaps, inevitable disappointment. As one man flies, the other crashes and burns.
Jack Goes Boating is a modest drama but one that resonates with believability and truth. It’s about the flaws in all of us, the unwillingness to fix what’s broken and the search for a solution to things that are beyond reconciliation. The acting throughout is impeccable.