"Jack Goes Boating" isn't a big budget movie and doesn't look like one. It doesn't have any big special effects, nor is it in 3-D. And it doesn't have anything else that other films use to distract its viewers from bad acting and a bad script. It's a simple, character-driven romantic comedy that avoids clichés and predictability.
Jack (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is an average limo driver living in New York, dreaming of a better life. He wants to find someone and he wants a better job. He spends most of his time with his best friend, Clyde (John Ortiz), and Clyde's wife, Lucy (Daphne Rubia Vega).
When he goes on a blind date with Lucy's co-worker Connie (Amy Ryan) and falls for her, it inspires him to do things he didn't know how to do before. Like learning how to cook and swim so that he can take her on the romantic boat trip that she has been dreaming of.
What is great about Jack and Connie's relationship is that they aren't the typical rom-com couple. Jack isn't some hunky stud and Connie isn't a ditzy babe. They're both a little insecure about each other and nervous about doing certain things-in other words, they're real.
Even the small glimpses into the characters were interesting; for instance, in order to help himself cook and swim better, Jack has to do it all in his head first. And whenever he's nervous he clears his throat, and the other characters acknowledged that.
"Jack Goes Boating" was originally an off-Broadway play by Bob Glaudini (who wrote the screenplay), which had Hoffman, Ortiz and Vega in it as well. And boy did it feel like a play at times, revolving around the four main characters. Most of the action seemed to happen "on stage" and there were several scenes featuring one or two characters talking for a long time.
Some of these were fun to watch, like Jack's visit to Connie in the hospital, or Jack's first swimming lesson with Clyde. At other times, though, all the talking slowed the film down considerably. Still, the script was excellent and the dialogue was so natural.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a great actor. He has shown he can play a funny oaf in a comedy and can play serious roles like his Oscar-winning portrayal as Truman Capote. In "Boating" he did a tremendous job, mixing the right amount of seriousness and comedy in his performance. In fact Ortiz, Ryan, and Vega all gave grade A performances and worked well together.
Not only was Hoffman the star but this was his debut as a director, and it seemed like he's been directing for years. There were some impressive shots, like the poignant moment when Clyde readjusts Jack's goggles, and the camera shows it from Jack's point of view.
"Jack Goes Boating" opens in most theatres Friday, Sept. 24.