Film Review: Jack Goes Boating

There was a time when I was much younger, didn’t own a mobile phone let alone have any idea what Facebook, Twitter or Google were and when you went to the cinema you didn’t use an automate ticket machine to collect pre books tickets but instead you’d stand in a queue to waiting to see a usually grumpy lady in a ticket booth, basing your evenings viewings on the names and start times pinned wonkily to the rudimentary felt board behind her.

And while we may now live in a modern age where such simplicities seem fuddy duddy and unthinkable, occassionally, channeling those times forgotten can throw up interesting results. You may noticed that recently I’ve discovered the Curzon Home Cinema service, and last night with only had a couple of pounds left on my account to spend on a film, the choice of what to watch became not what does Rotten Tomatoes rate highly, but rather what can I afford that grabs my attention.

And the film that jumped out of the screen, and fitted my price range was Jack Goes Boating.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman & Amy Ryan - Jack Goes Boating

Staring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Ryan in the lead roles, although you could argue John Ortiz is a bigger character in his supporting part than Ryan. It is also sadly Philip Seymour Hoffman’s only work as a director. It was, however,  his involvement that drew me to it. There are just some actors that make things look easy. That are almost too talented, but in a good way. You almost feel as though you are forever safe when they are around. No matter how bad the film, they will bring something to it that will make it OK. Hoffman is one, Pete Postlethwaite another.

Because I was coming to Jack Goes Boating totally blind, I only learnt of existence about 30 minute before I watched it, I had no idea what to expect from it. It’s based on a play by Robert Glaudini from 2007 and so may have crossed a few people’s radars in its stage form, but I certainly didn’t expect to find what I did. IMDb bills it as “A limo driver’s blind date sparks a tale of love, betrayal, friendship, and grace centered around two working-class New York City couples.” which doesn’t sound too bad but I just didn’t get on with it. I just didn’t connect with it. I found a film that is monotonous, depressive, slow and at times confusing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad film but it’s not a good film either.

I wasn’t bored at any point, there is enough to the story to keep you interested but it’s a story that never seems to really be clear, or ever actually go anywhere. In fact, I have no idea how many days, weeks, or even potentially months the story is set over. It is a bit sporadic in how it explains the actions and emotions of its characters and never actually develops the two main character’s back stories, it never bothers to give rhyme or reason as to why they are the way they are or act the way they do. It’s almost as if the entire mantra of the film is that “Actions speak louder than words” which is strange for a film coming from a stage play as they are usually dialogue heavy to make up for the confines of the their physical set. And it’s this lack of back story that really destroys the film for me as it is desperately needed to provide a bit of clarity to the only scene where the film bursts into life that as left me more baffled and confused than emotional and gripped.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman Directing - Jack Goes Boating

Hoffman’s directing is OK, but it’s the performances that keep the film’s head above water. Hoffman, predictably, is a safe pair of hands and steals the show (or film). Ortiz comes marching in a close second bringing a real power to his role. You really sense that having played the part previously on the stage, he knows the role and his character inside out. If you want to search for a weak link it’s Ryan. She has an awkwardness to her beyond that, which, her character is naturally meant to exude. While Ortiz and Hoffman look at home with their characters, I found Ryan felt one pace behind.

As I said at the start, over all it’s not a bad film, and Hoffman while not quite as talented behind the lens as in front of it, certainly hasn’t created an absolute stinker of a film, it’s just that he hasn’t created a film of real lasting note either. It’s a middle of the road, watch once and move on film. I’d watch if it falls into your life but I wouldn’t go endlessly searching it out.

5 out of 10 stars (5 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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